The connections between the Saratoga region and the Arab world — the oil-rich and politically stable part of it — are stronger than you might think.
It’s pretty widely known that the GlobalFoundries semiconductor plant in Malta is owned by the emirate of Abu Dhabi, through a government investment fund. Some people think the foreign ownership was the real reason President Barack Obama didn’t drop by GlobalFoundries last month, when he instead visited Albany’s nanotechnology research center.
Abu Dhabi’s Advanced Technology Investment Co. has used billions in oil wealth to buy its way — and in Malta, build its way — into the worldwide semiconductor industry. GlobalFoundries has become one of the largest chip producers in the world in barely three years’ time.
But there’s a horse-racing connection, too. Thoroughbred racing is a passion in the Arab world, and Meydan Racecourse in Dubai has joined Saratoga Race Course as one of the best places anywhere to watch a race, even though in Dubai it’s illegal to risk two bucks on the outcome.
Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, prime minister of the United Arab Emirates and monarch of Dubai, in 2008 bought Greentree Stables, a very fancy farm right next to the race course, with its own training track. He’s worth billions and has spent millions locally.
An associate, Abdulla Al Habbai, owns Fasig-Tipton, where the annual three-day thoroughbred yearling sale draws bidders from around the world each August, Al Maktoum among them.
“They are people who spent a lot of time in our area,” says the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, which is organizing an eight-day September trip to the United Arab Emirates, part of a new global outreach plan.
This year’s overseas trip comes on the heels of a successful 2011 journey to China that involved 55 business leaders.
Chamber leaders say it will promote Saratoga as a global destination as well as improve cultural understanding.
I’ve said — after I heard it from smarter people — that how well this region handles growing cultural diversity will determine a lot about our future. GlobalFoundries has hired employees from 30 countries, making good on a promise to hire the best from around the world.
“You can be better at diversity if you understand other people’s point of view,” said Kathleen Lucey, the chamber’s vice president for community development.
She points out what every traveler knows — there’s no substitute for actually being there.
The chamber travelers will get behind-the-scenes looks at Meydan Racecourse — home of the Dubai World Cup race — and visit the headquarters of ATIC, the investment fund that owns GlobalFoundries.
“In today’s global economy, the unique business and cultural connections between the UAE and the United States are significant to both our nation’s economy and our local economy here in the Capital Region,” said GlobalFoundries spokesman Travis Bullard.
If your appetite has been whetted and you have $2,900 or so to spare, contact the chamber office in Saratoga Springs for the details.