Business by the beach: What European businesses need to know

Establishing a US subsidiary or partnership means doing your homework: the second half of our mini-documentary shows you where to start


The City of Virginia Beach was founded on businesses seeking growth opportunities. For European companies today, it can be an extremely attractive access point to the enormous US market. But crossing the Atlantic does involve some homework. In the second half of our mini-documentary about the city, we speak to Tom Frantz from Williams Mullen, Katharina Brekke Powers from Vandeventer Black, and Eric Apperson from Armada Hoffler, about the most important things to think about when establishing a subsidiary or partnership in the US.

Warren Harris: Well we certainly try to bridge the gap between understanding the opportunities to expand your company to the US market. And in most cases it’s not as difficult as you may think.

Part of what we have been able to accomplish is to lead them through that process, so it’s not as overwhelming as they may think. And then we put them in contact with technical experts: whether it’s finance, whether it’s labour, or incorporation of your company; to make sure that you have been informed of all the pros and potential cons you have to consider.

At the end of the day, we want you to say: we made the right decision to move to Virginia Beach.

European CEO: The City of Virginia Beach was founded on businesses seeking growth opportunities. For European businesses, it can be an extremely attractive access point to the enormous US market. But crossing the Atlantic does involve some homework.

Tom Frantz: The first thing you’ve got to look at is the US treaty with your country: see how favourable that is from a tax standpoint, and from an investment standpoint, and from a flow of funds standpoint.

But typically, most of the European countries have very good tax treaties and other treaties with the US. The tax climate in Virginia is very favourable. We have one of the lowest income tax rates in the US; so it’s very feasible, very workable to set up a subsidiary for a European company to invest in the US.

Katharina Brekke Powers: A lot of the companies that I work with are small and mid-sized. And for small and mid-sized companies, one thing is not to necessarily look to set up business in the US, but to maybe look for opportunities to work with US companies to kind of establish themselves as partnerships.

There’s a lot of foreign companies here that are more than happy to act as a mentor; making sure that they know what hurdles there are going to be for them when they’re setting up a business overseas. But you’re investing in the potential to sell in a country where you have a very large market.

European CEO: For larger companies, Virginia Beach offers the space and the facilities to build their US business from the ground up: to create an operation that works ergonomically, and profitably.

Eric Apperson: I think the infrastructure is in good shape in this area. We’ve done a bunch of expansions and renovations for companies like Sumitomo and Mitsubishi. Ikea.

What we offer our clients is the opportunity to design and build something specific to their needs. We spend a lot of time focused on the aesthetic quality of what we’re building, and how that actually translates into the performance of what the product is to be used for.

We’re involved with all the aspects of what the city’s requirements are, what they need, and they are involved in what our clients requirements are. That’s part of the attraction for folks to look at doing business here in Virginia Beach.

Will Sessoms: The vision for this city is to continue to grow. We have a track record showing growth even during tough economic times. And the way you grow is you must also continue to invest in your city.

European CEO: The city’s investments are going into nine major business districts, each with their own unique personality and industrial focus.

Warren Harris: Being Virginia Beach we have the resort area: everything from the Hilton chain to Marriott and most recently Hyatt.

We have a growing financial central business district in town centre. And you have growing entertainment components here, the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts.

And then you have some of our business parks. Corporate Landing, and some of our other business clusters and corridors. You have major corporations, everything from advanced manufacturing, which is an important component of our economy. We have a wonderful and emerging bioscience and healthcare cluster.

And of late we’re very fortunate with regards to trans-sub-sea cable: something that’s going to be very unique in terms of expanding our technology footprint here in the city.

We have two cables that have been announced: one coming from Bilbao Spain, the second one coming from Rio de Janeiro. So now we’re going to be able to move data, and move information.

And if you’re in the business of big data or data analytics, or in need of faster broadband services or internet services: we’re going to be the hub and the port for you to grow your technology platform.

You know, we think that we have a collection of all that’s good about a community in terms of great quality of life amenities, a great location along the mid-Atlantic; a wonderful place to live and work.

European CEO: Exploring the City of Virginia Beach is like discovering the new world again. It represents enormous business potential – and it’s just a beautiful place. In many ways, it does all come back to the beach.

Will Sessoms: It’s a coastal city, and we’ve got the beautiful Atlantic Ocean to our east. And we are surrounded by the Chesapeake Bay. And this in my mind allows you to work hard during the week but also know that you’re going to have some good quality relaxation time with the amenities that this city has to offer. And we will continue to make sure that we have a quality of life in this city at a fair cost.