Illinois REALTORS® joined business leaders and economic development officials from 79 global markets and 49 states last week at the Select USA Investment Summit in Washington, DC.

Speakers at this year’s event included SoftBank Group Corporation Chief Operating Officer Marcelo Claure and NXP Semiconductors Chief Executive Officer Rick Clemmer as well as HUD Secretary Ben Carson and White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow. The event gives businesses and economic development officials an opportunity to showcase the strengths of American states and cities for foreign investors. Consistent themes in panel discussions included the United States’: business-friendly environment, safe and trustworthy banking system, strong intellectual property rights framework and its leadership in research, development, innovation and design.

Claure talked about the success of some of SoftBank’s investments in the United States, including business disrupters to industries such as real estate. SoftBank has invested in both Compass Real Estate and Opendoor, a leading iBuyer concept that is growing in market share. Another recent SoftBank investment, a pre-fab construction start-up named Katerra, is setting a goal to fully construct a home and deliver it in 48 hours.

Clemmer said American educational institutions are strongly connected to enterprise with about 39 percent of students in STEM programs. However, since 50 percent of China’s students and 47 percent of Israel’s students are in STEM programs, the United States still has room for improvement. That said, Illinois is ranked high in the number of U.S. STEM graduates.

According to the Illinois Innovation Index report, “Despite being the sixth largest state by population, Illinois ranks fifth nationally in STEM degree production. STEM degrees in Illinois reached a new record high in 2017 with 24,474 STEM bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees awarded in the state.” Also, the report states, “International students make up a significantly larger share of STEM graduates in Illinois (29 percent), compared with the nation (20.5 percent). In computer science, more than half of Illinois’ graduates are international students.” This is great for Illinois to position itself as a place to go to gain skills that will create and sustain future jobs and economic development.

Carson talked about opportunity zones and discussed housing as the most significant section of the nation’s economy. He expressed the home as a living nucleus to strong nations and strong communities, and he shared NAR statistics on average net worth of Americans, and the positive impact it makes on individuals. According to NAR analysis, he stated the “average net worth of renter is $5,000, and a homeowner is $200,000.”

Since the United States needs more affordable housing, Carson said the Department of Housing and Urban Development is aiming to better facilitate and incentivize the use of opportunity zones through the Federal Housing Administration, new technology and new housing construction techniques. He announced the new Opportunity Zone Revitalization Council that he is chairing and including 16 federal agencies.

In a separate session, Larry Kudlow, White House Assistant to the President for Economic Policy shared that no country has a better rule of law, intellectual property and patent protection. Also, recent banking and environmental deregulation makes it easier to do business in the U.S. while not compromising on standards.

In one example of an Illinois REALTOR® networking with an investor (photo at top of story), Champaign-area REALTOR® Alex Ruggieri told a business owner the strategic advantages of locating his Moroccan consumer goods company in the center of the country and several foreign trade zones.

White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow addresses attendees of the Select USA Investment Summit in Washington, D.C.