Business & Economy

Which country invests most in LA? The answer might surprise you

Foreign investment in Southern California companies accounts for more than 350,000 jobs. Japan is the largest source of that investment, through companies like Sony.
Foreign investment in Southern California companies accounts for more than 350,000 jobs. Japan is the largest source of that investment, through companies like Sony.
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Japan continues to be the largest source of foreign direct investment in Southern California, according to a report released Friday by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation.

The report measured foreign investment based on the number of local jobs created. More than 79,000 people in the region work at companies owned by Japanese companies.

The United Kingdom came in second (54,910 jobs) followed by a dead heat between Germany (32,594 jobs) and France (32,558 jobs). China ranked 13th, with just 6,450 jobs.

"I think a lot of people have been very focused on China," said Stephen Cheung, president of the World Trade Center Los Angeles. "However, when you look at historic trends, we have seen Japan in Los Angeles for decades."

Japanese-owned companies include Culver City-based Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc., a subsidiary of Sony Entertainment Inc. Other examples include the printer maker, Long Beach-based Epson America and Torrance-based Alpine Electronics, which makes audio equipment for cars.

Though it lags far behind other countries in terms of foreign investment, China has been making up ground. Chinese investment in Southern California went from $1.1 billion in 2013 to $1.5 billion in 2014 thanks largely to a series of massive real estate projects in downtown Los Angeles. 

Japan is also the largest source of new investments in Southern California, injecting $4.48 billion into the local economy between 2003 and 2015 and generating an estimated 11,378 jobs, according to the LAEDC. Germany came in second, investing $3.59 billion, followed by China ($3.28 billion) and the United Kingdom ($3.2 billion).

There are a total of 9,105 foreign owned companies in Southern California, which directly employ 366,415 people.  Nearly 117,000 of those workers are in manufacturing, according to the report, which was presented at the SELECT LA Investment Summit where overseas investors are gathering before they go to Washington D.C. for the SelectUSA foreign investment conference.

The summit takes place amid turmoil in overseas markets, with continuing weakness in China's economy and a possible exit by the United Kingdom from the European Union. However, Cheung says attendees have been in good spirits.

"The mood is quite positive," he said. "They see the U.S. and Los Angeles as a safe investment."