Clean Energy Investments Touted at Commerce Summit

Foreign Investors Told of Economic Opportunities
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on May 3 announced Norwegian firm Nel Hydrogen's $400 million investment to build an electrolyzer plant in the state. (Michigan Economic Development Corp.)

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NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — President Joe Biden cited supply chain achievements while telling a U.S. Commerce Department networking event between states and 70 foreign countries, “There’s never been a better time to invest in America than right now.”

Biden made a short video address May 3 during the 2023 SelectUSA Investment Summit, hosted by Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo on May 1-4 at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center. The event brought 1,400 vetted foreign investors seeking to establish or expand their businesses in the United States.

“For the past two years, I’ve signed historic laws that are unleashing manufacturing, modernizing our critical infrastructure, strengthening our supply chain,” Biden said, adding, “that’s on top of world-class universities, the most innovative entrepreneurs, stronger intellectual property rights and the most productive workforce.”

He noted companies have committed more than $400 billion in private sector investments in his administration. One-third is from foreign investment, according to the Commerce Department. This year’s top investment industries included agribusiness, automotive, consumer goods, food/beverage and energy.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, in a video message, told the group about federal “once-in-a-generation investments in transportation” as well as clean energy and being “excited to team up with you to deliver safe, sustainable and modern roads, bridges, rail transport, air traffic, electric vehicles.”

Discussing “the early results and future promise of our policies in electric vehicles and the charging infrastructure to support it,” he declared, “if your business deals with innovation and the future of transportation, this is the place to be.”

Hakon Volldal of Nel Hydrogen


In an afternoon networking session in which numerous state economic development agencies had booths and met with potential foreign investors, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was flanked by Raimondo and Håkon Volldal, CEO of Nel Hydrogen, to announce the 96-year-old Norwegian energy company’s $400 million investment in an automated gigawatt electrolyzer manufacturing facility.

The venture, to create 500 jobs in Michigan, will be one of the world’s largest makers of electrolyzers, which produces hydrogen for heavy fuel cell trucks.

“The choice of Michigan is based on an overall assessment of what the state can offer in terms of financial incentives, access to a highly skilled workforce and cooperation with universities, research institutions and strategic partners,” said Volldal, mentioning a deciding factor was being close to the Detroit headquarters of General Motors.

GM will collaborate with Nel Hydrogen. “Having Nel’s new facility close to our home base of Hydrotec development, in southeastern Michigan, will help us more quickly accelerate our electrolyzer collaboration,” said Charlie Freese, GM executive director of Hydrotec. “This technology is critical in helping bring down costs while also creating a more sustainable hydrogen supply.”

In a nearby booth, Iowa had a team from its Economic Development Authority (IEDA) showcasing its central location within interstates with multimodal transportation options and investment advantages in advanced manufacturing and being the nation’s No. 1 producer of ethanol and biodiesel.

Kanan Kappelman of IEDA

Kanan Kappelman of the Iowa Economic Development Authority. (Noël Fletcher/Transport Topics) 

Kanan Kappelman, IEDA team lead and spokesperson, said Iowa’s agriculture industry provides a clean, lower-cost energy advantage for companies because of its wind energy, ethanol and biodiesel.

“We’re looking to attract companies that benefit from Iowa’s very enviable renewable energy portfolio for advanced manufacturing and energy-intensive industries,” Kappelman said. “Companies are looking to find more efficient, cheaper ways to produce goods.”

Earlier in the day, geographical locations also were discussed by Andrea Albright, Walmart executive vice president of sourcing, in a talk about economic resilience.

Andrea Albright of Walmart

Andrea Albright, executive vice president of sourcing for Walmart. (Noël Fletcher/Transport Topics) 

Being able to deliver to customers “demanding products faster than ever” coupled with lessons learned from supply chain challenges during the pandemic have resulted in Walmart focusing on resiliency and “geographies of excellence,” she said.

Walmart has been determining unique areas of the world where specialized goods and commodities are located. Then it maps out those product locations with supply chains to create a business ecosystem to move items quickly to customers.

Walmart Inc. ranks No. 2 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest private carriers in North America.

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