By Vidhan Rana

In recent years, economic development professionals have had to face up to the fact that their community is just a small part of the global economy. Marketing your community just within your state or your region is a challenging job in itself, but now ED professionals are required to market their communities all around the globe. Thankfully, there are some tools out there that can make marketing your community or region to global businesses much easier. One such tool is fDi Atlas.

Launched by Financial Times Business in May 2007,  fDi Atlas is a search and reference tool for business executives and professional advisors involved in cross-border expansion decisions. The web-tool provides detailed investment information about regions all around the globe. It helps businesses looking for geographical areas for expansion identify investment locations suitable for their business sector, assess the business environment, measure lifestyle factors, and pinpoint government agencies that facilitate investment in the region. The web-tool allows users to search either by business sectors (quickly eliminating regions of limited interest), or by relevant regions via their interactive maps. The interactive map also lets users create a side-by-side comparison of different regions around the world.

Here’s where the advantage for economic developers comes in. Local and regional economic development agencies can upload information about their community on fDi Atlas and use that to increase traffic to their website and raise awareness of their region globally. The information page about the region includes maps and pictures with a direct link to the ED website for the region.  It consists of sections like fact file, sector strengths, lifestyle, media center and a page for contact information. Within the fact-file section, you can include population statistics, information about local universities and facts about your region’s physical infrastructure.  Another powerful tool offered by fDi Atlas is the sector-strengths section, where an agency can provide information about various industries present in its area, which can be searched by business executives looking for expansion opportunities.

Currently, the website lists over 40 investment-promotion agencies from Cayman Island to Tunisia and from Italy to Australia. The only region listed from the United States is the State of Nevada. The listing was created by the Nevada Commission on Economic Development. The fact that there is only one region from the United States listed on fDi Atlas shows us that economic development organizations in the United States have not yet fully utilized the opportunities presented by globalization.

According to a study by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, FDI inflows around the world have increased from $564.08 billion in 2003 to $1,305.85 billion in 2006, an increase of over 130 percent. In the same period, inward investment into the United States increased from $53.15 billion to $175.39 billion, an increase of over 200 percent. Since inward investment into the United States is increasing faster than investment around the world (which was not the case a decade ago), economic development organizations need to understand the potential of FDI and utilize resources like fDi Atlas.