Birmingham Native heads new Federal Program that aims to boost business investment
|Birmingham Native heads new Federal Program that aims to boost business investment - Front page|
|National News Headlines|
|Written by Administrator|
|Thursday, 23 February 2012 10:44|
Page 2 of 2Barry Johnson, who attended the Alabama School of Fine Arts in Birmingham and graduated from The Altamont School, is the executive director of SelectUSA, a U.S. Department of Commerce initiative created by President Obama last year to help recruit foreign companies into the U.S. and to support the expansion of domestic and foreign-based companies.
As executive director, Johnson leads a program that works with state and local governments and business leaders to encourage job-creating business investments. SelectUSA practices strict geographic neutrality, maintaining a state appointed liaison in each of the 50 states, five territories and the District of Columbia.
Last week, President Obama used an appearance at Master Lock Co. in Milwaukee to announce that later this year the Commerce Department will host its first SelectUSA Investment Summit. The event will bring companies from around the world to meet with governors, mayors, federal agencies, state and local economic development organizations to discuss the benefits of investing in the U.S.
Obama praised Master Lock, which he said is the world’s largest maker of padlocks and security products, is leading by example in bringing jobs back to the United States. He was promoting a new program that would remove deductions for shipping jobs overseas and encourage in-sourcing of jobs in the U.S.
Johnson said SelectUSA aims to be a facilitator and single-point of entry to the federal government for companies based in the United States and overseas looking to expand here. “We want to make sure the federal government doesn’t slow down the investment process,” he said.
Before SelectUSA, Johnson served as senior advisor and director of strategic initiatives at the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration. Before working in Washington as part of the Obama administration, Johnson spent more than 20 years as an entrepreneur and corporate executive working with such firms as Walt Disney Co. and Sony Music Corp.
He was former founding president of MSBET, a joint venture between Microsoft Corp. and BET Holdings.
Herschell Hamilton, president of Bloc Global in Birmingham, grew up with Johnson and says he will do well in the post. Hamilton said he was not surprised that the Obama Administration selected Johnson to lead the SelectUSA initiative.
“This prestigious post for one of Birmingham’s native sons now puts him on the world stage to support the president’s global initiative to create jobs by getting international companies and investors to grow their businesses and invest here in the U.S, he said.
Hamilton said Johnson is a good role model for young people in Birmingham showing them that hard work pays off.
“He and I grew up at the same tables here in Birmingham where our parents and grandparents instilled in us a strong sense of self-confidence and a belief in our abilities to accomplish anything we set our minds to,” Hamilton said. “Barry’s success at Yale and Harvard Business School added depth to his strong Birmingham roots and this has led him to the board rooms of some of the largest media, entertainment, and Internet companies in the country.
Johnson said SelectUSA aims to entice not only international companies to invest in the United States, but also assist domestic companies looking to expand here.
“The mission statement of SelectUSA specifically says it focuses on helping domestic and international companies, as well as businesses here looking to reshore operations back into the United States,” Johnson said. “We want companies here to grow and prosper.”
Johnson’s parents live in Hoover. His father, Eugene Johnson, is a former postmaster of Jemison turned entrepreneur/general contractor. His mother, Danella Avery Johnson, retired as a director of the food stamp program for the Jefferson County Department of Human Resources.
Johnson earned a master’s degree in business administration from the Harvard Business School and bachelor’s degrees in economics and political science from Yale University.
Johnson said SelectUSA focuses both on growing domestic and foreign firms. He said foreign-owned companies operating in the United States support over 5.3 million American jobs, and U.S. subsidiaries of foreign-owned firms account for 21 percent of all U.S. exports.
“With nearly 310 million people, the United States is the largest single country economy in the world – and the only developed economy of scale with an increasing population,” Johnson said. “Our labor pool is one of the best educated, and most productive and innovative.”
Before the free trade agreements were enacted with South Korea, Panama and Colombia last month, existing bilateral and multilateral agreements represented a total market size of 610 million worldwide. Now, that figure has increased significantly, presenting a firm with U.S. operations the opportunity to conduct activities in more markets than ever, Johnson said.
Johnson said Alabama is a perfect example of the important role foreign investment can play in stimulating economic growth in a state.
U.S. subsidiaries of foreign firms now employ 78,400 workers in Alabama, including 45,200 manufacturing jobs, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. That’s about 5 percent of the state’s private-sector workforce, he said.
Manufacturing companies tend to have a strong “multiplier” effect on the economy, stimulating a substantial amount of activity and jobs in other sectors and through demands for parts from suppliers, Johnson said.