FDI is for the Birds

There’s no question that the effort to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) is an important part of an economic development strategy. That’s why communities, states, provinces, regions and nations – and everything and everyone in between – are seeking, first, to make themselves attractive to potential investors, and then to find ways to tell their story effectively.

Every jurisdiction wants to be known as investor-friendly, but also as a creative and effective host where the rule of law, natural assets, a talented workforce, costs of production, logistics and so forth come together in an optimal combination.

The blessings and recognition afforded by the leading arbiters of FDI, as imperfect and controversial as they may be, are always sought, even if such rankings are denigrated in the next breath.

No one can be all things to all people, or all investors, so it’s best in the long run to focus on what one does best, or what one has to offer that is truly distinct. That’s part of a jurisdiction’s brand, and it should be an important part of the message.

For the past few years, much has been made of Israel’s status as a technology center. Here’s a great recap of how Israel made that happen, against all odds.

But Israel is also creative when it comes to tourism marketing. While millions visit Israel annually to see the sites of the Holy Land, it may not be as widely known that Israel is the crossroads of the world for … wait for it … migratory birds.

In fact, it is possible in Israel, in a single morning, to see some 500 species of birds, including 40,000 storks. Over the course of a year, 500 million birds fly over just one particular hilltop in Israel.

If you think this is rather obscure, consider that there are approximately 100 million serious birdwatchers in the world, and Israel already attracts more than 100,000 birders to the country every year to watch the more than 1 billion birds that fly over the country in the spring and autumn.

Now comes word that Israel is planning a state of the art birding center that the country expects will draw between 150,000 – 200,000 visitors annually. Here’s the info.

What’s this all mean for FDI?

Israel knows that the world recognizes it for at least three things: technology prowess, holy sites, and conflict.

It wants to add depth and nuance to its brand. It realizes that it has assets few other places in the world have. As the director of the birding research center has said, Israel sits at the intersection of three continents.

“Politically, it’s a disaster. But for bird migration, it’s heaven.”

When 200,000 visitors come to Israel to watch birds, they’ll return to their home countries with still another story to tell their friends and colleagues. Israel is not just about conflict, or religion, or even high tech. Israel is about nature.

And that nuance – that suggestion that Israel is a multidimensional, safe, intriguing and altogether unique location – contributes to the sense that the country is a place that interesting, competent, solvent and creative investors might well want to investigate.

For the rest of us, this surely means we must also identify our unique, even niche, assets, and see how we can creatively incorporate them into the brand and the message that we hope to communicate to potential investors.

In Israel, tourism – and perhaps even some FDI – will be, if not for the birds, in part thanks to the birds.