June 14- The Canadian province of Quebec on Wednesday reported a 50 percent rise in foreign investment attracted through its state-owned corporation Investissement Quebec during the last fiscal year. Investissement Quebec, which works to attract companies to the mostly French-language province, said the investments it secured from foreign businesses like miner Arcelor Mittal and Germany’s Siemens, rose to a record C$1.5 billion ($1.14 billion) during the year ending in March 2017. By comparison, the province has generated about $1 billion a year in foreign investment since the creation of Investissement Quebec in 2011, said Chantal Corbeil, a spokeswoman for the group.
The higher investments were fueled by demand for cheap energy costs and access to the nearby U.S. market, said Pierre Gabriel Cote, chief executive of the state-owned body which is unique to the province.
Quebec, which has one of the highest personal income tax and public debt loads of any province, has traditionally lagged behind its richer and more populous neighbor Ontario in attracting foreign investment. Cote attributed the higher investment this year to manufacturing and tech companies seeking low-cost, renewable energy and a colder climate to reduce energy costs needed to cool servers. “This is a big selling point for people coming here,” said Cote in an interview on the sidelines of the International Economic Forum of the Americas in Montreal. Quebec, which produces renewable hydroelectric power, has some of the lowest energy costs in North America. “More and more, they are looking for a location that’s a bit cooler so less air conditioning is needed. Our power is cheap and green so they can market more and more, ‘the green (data) cloud.'”
Some European companies were also looking for a North American site close to the United States for exporting, Cote said. He said they were not dissuaded by upcoming talks in August between Canada, the United States and Mexico to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which allows for tariff-free exports between the three countries. “There’s certainly some turbulence around that right now,” Cote said of U.S. protectionist rhetoric. “But going forward we don’t think that’s going to have a major impact.” ($1 = 1.3210 Canadian dollars)