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Does This Strong Dollar Make U.S. Look Too Fat For Foreign NPR

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President Obama speaks at the SelectUSA Investment
Summit, hosted by the Commerce Department on Monday, at
National Harbor, Md. Cliff Owen/AP
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Cliff Owen/AP

President Obama speaks at the SelectUSA Investment Summit, hosted by the Commerce Department on Monday, at National Harbor, Md.

President Obama speaks at the SelectUSA Investment
Summit, hosted by the Commerce Department on Monday, at
National Harbor, Md.

Cliff Owen/AP

The U.S. economic expansion has been gaining so quickly that
foreign investors are paying attention. Many want to open
factories and offices that could swell their profits while
creating jobs for Americans.

But U.S. growth also has pushed up the value of the dollar,
which has surged about 14 percent over the past year relative
to other currencies. That makes it more difficult for
foreigners to spend their money in the U.S. The dilemma is not
lost on the White House.

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said in an interview Monday
that on one hand, having a strong currency “is a reflection of
the fact the U.S. economy is strong. … So that’s the good
news.”

On the other hand, “it would be naive to say the strong dollar
isn’t something that some companies are taking into account”
and might make land and equipment too expensive here, she said.

The key to overcoming that currency drawback is to be sure
foreign investors see the big picture and understand the
long-term value of the U.S. market, she said. “Your location
decisions are ones made for decades” and should not be based on
today’s currency bounces, she noted.

Over the long term, the United States offers a very long list
of assets, including cheap, abundant energy; leading
universities; intellectual-property rights; political
stability; rule of law. She could go on and on about the
upsides.

And she did just that at her department’s event, called the
SelectUSA
Investment Summit, held at National Harbor, Md.

At the two-day gathering that began Monday, about 2,500
participants came to check out “matchmaking” discussions and
exhibitions. Basically, economic development teams from various
states and cities talked up their assets with potential foreign
investors.

President Obama himself showed up for Commerce’s second
large-scale “investment summit.” The last one was held in 2013.

Looking out over a huge ballroom, Obama told the foreign
attendees that his administration is taking steps to make it
easier to spend money in this country. “The American people
like doing business and they respect business, and they’re
looking forward to working with you,” Obama said.

The country added almost 3 million jobs last year, the most
since the late 1990s. The unemployment rate is down to 5.5
percent.

“We’ve got a good story to tell and we wanted to make sure you
all had a chance to hear it,” Obama said. His administration
announced some tweaks to the SelectUSA program, such as
strengthening its “partnership” with states.

In the exhibition hall, Matt Englehart was manning the JobsOhio
booth, hoping to attract new business for Buckeyes.

He said that thanks to abundant cheap natural gas, Ohio has
been attracting more interest from foreign investors, even
though a stronger dollar hurts a bit. He said state officials
are looking for investors who could create jobs in Ohio,
as the huge
Honda operation has done in Marysville
.

Being at SelectUSA is useful, Englehart said. “We’re very glad
to be here, but we do a lot of our own footwork,” he said.

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