The US is Scotland’s biggest inward investor and one of our major export markets. It’s also where many of our tourists and international students come from.
Those are just some of the reasons it’s important that we continue to build good relationships in the US and promote Scotland as a place to live, work, invest and visit. It’s part of my job to make sure we take every opportunity to build on those links.
Over the last week in California and New York, I’ve met with representatives of some of our key current investors, and potential new investors, to ensure they know how committed we are to building a strong economy, and to remaining an open and welcoming country against the backdrop of Brexit.
We have long had strong interest from US companies in our financial services sector, but increasingly there’s interest in our technology sectors too.
Edinburgh had more tech start-ups per head than London in 2015 – and we want that to keep going.
One of the most exciting discussions I took part in was at Stanford University – who are working in partnership with five Scottish universities to expose science and technology students to the entrepreneurial environment of Silicon Valley, encouraging them to turn problem solving science into profitable businesses.
Whilst there I met with one investment company, Par Equity, who are putting $125 million into an investment fund to bring health technology start ups to Scotland and take Scottish start ups to the US market.
My visit wasn’t just about inward investment in Scotland, it was also about helping Scottish companies into the American market.
And in a few weeks 12 female CEOs of Scottish firms will be landing in California to make their pitches to some of the investors I met, to try to secure the funding they need to grow their businesses at home and sell their products in the US.
This focus on technology is vital for the future of Scotland’s economy.
Indeed, following my announcement a few weeks ago that the Scottish Government will be investing £36 million in supporting businesses to improve the digital skills of their staff, I took a look at The Flat Iron School, a training programme in New York City that helps people into technology jobs – exactly the kind of programme we will be investing in here at home.
But our economy isn’t just about the science and technology. Our natural assets – food and drink, gorgeous scenery and inspiring history – are also hugely important.
So it was exciting to hear from Marriot Hotels about their plans to build seven new hotels in Scotland to meet growing demand from visitors to our shores, and also to join TripAdvisor and Visit Scotland at the Carnegie Hall to announce their partnership – a European first – to promote Scotland as a place to visit.
And it’s always a pleasure to promote Scotland’s food and drink industry, which achieved over $1 billion of food and drink exports to the US last year – a figure that is set to grow.
Promoting Scotland overseas is a central part of being First Minister and as I’ve travelled across the US this week it’s clear to me there’s a big appetite for all that Scotland has to offer.
This article originally appeared in the Daily Record