WASHINGTON, D.C. — Zach Dietmeier hopes his trip to the nation's capital can help "put Bloomington-Normal on the map for global companies."
"The world is here, and we want to introduce them to McLean County," said Dietmeier by phone Tuesday from the 2019 SelectUSA Investment Summit, a three-day gathering of government officials, business leaders and investors from around the world.
"We refer to it as 'top of mind ready,' so even if there's not a specific project from these companies and countries, they know we're here," he continued. "They know Chicago, but they might not even know where Chicago is. ... When you combine Peoria, Champaign, Springfield, Decatur and Bloomington-Normal, you can offer some of the same things as Chicagoland."
Dietmeier is the lone McLean County official at the event but is part of a large delegation from Illinois, including representatives from Ameren, Greater Peoria Economic Development Council, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and Illinois Realtors.
This is the third year the EDC has sent someone on the trip, an initiative of Intersect Illinois, a privately funded nonprofit economic development agency for the state founded by then-Gov. Bruce Rauner in 2016.
Dietmeier said the trips have shown no specific results yet, but international investment is already common in the Twin Cities. McLean County has 46 businesses with investments from 16 different countries, according to a tweet Monday from the @BNEDC account.
Dietmeier said he didn't have a list accessible, but those include Canadian ag manufacturer Brandt, which came to Normal in 2018; Denmark-based Kongskilde, another ag company in Normal; and Italy-based Ferrero, which owns Fervalue USA, the company running Bloomington's former Nestle plant.
He said foreign companies account for about 1,400 employees locally, meaning "it's 10 to 12 percent of our local workforce is supported by foreign direct investment."
Statewide, that figure is 340,500, and the top countries investing are the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, Canada and France.
"In McLean County we have a little bit more interaction with Indian companies as well," said Dietmeier.
He noted all 50 states and Puerto Rico are at the summit working together, which helps EDC learn new ways to reach outside businesses and retain existing McLean County businesses.
"In the long run, if you're fighting over a company in Kentucky or Indiana, you're not bringing investment to the United States," said Dietmeier. "We're working to grow that pie for the country."
EDC is now more than a year removed from CEO Kyle Ham resigning and turning the reins over to Interim CEO Mike O'Grady. Dietmeier said a selection committee is wrapping up the search for a successor after considering about 20 candidates and interviewing six, with an announcement possible in July.
"They're all Midwestern, so it's an easier adjustment for whoever's coming in. They know the region and have economic development experience," said Dietmeier. "We'll have someone who can really move the needle on economic development in Central Illinois."