Gov. Butch Otter said his trade mission to China earlier this month has already reaped rewards for some of the 18 businesses that went on the trip sponsored by the Idaho Department of Commerce. In a guest opinion, he said Idaho companies have already lined up $10 million in agreements thanks to the trip, with further plans with Idaho agricultural and health care products.
The state spent approximately $50,000 on travel for six state employees on the trip as well as other expenses, including gifts at receptions with Chinese companies. Joining Otter on the trip were First Lady Lori Otter, who paid her own way for the trip, as well as three officials with the commerce department and three Idaho State Department of Agriculture employees.
“It set the stage for future business deals and ongoing relationships between Idaho businesses and the world’s largest and fastest-growing market,” Otter said about the trip. China is the fourth-largest buyer of Idaho exported products, behind Canada, Singapore, and Taiwan.
Read Otter’s guest opinion below.
CHINA TRADE MISSION PROVIDED SHORT-TERM, LONG-TERM BENEFITS FOR IDAHO
By Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter
Selling isn’t hard when you have a good product to offer. Earlier this month, I had the best products in the world to offer the Chinese market – Idaho products. And the Chinese were ready to buy.
My trade mission to China – specifically the cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou – will bring in many millions of dollars that will turn into many good jobs for Idaho workers in the months and years to come. It set the stage for future business deals and ongoing relationships between Idaho businesses and the world’s largest and fastest-growing market.
The purpose of the trade mission is a key part of my Project 60 initiative, our comprehensive plan to grow Idaho’s economy and create more career-path employment opportunities. Reaching out to international markets and driving investment here in Idaho must occur in order for our businesses to flourish and grow.
My role as Governor was to open doors for Idaho businesses traveling with me in China, a country with a deep respect and appreciation for the role of relationship-building in the economic process. Once the doors were open, then it was up to the companies and industry representatives who accompanied me to sell their wares and negotiate deals. They did a great job. As a result, we have some great successes to talk about.
Letters of intent were signed for $10 million in investments for mining and real estate development activities in Idaho. The funding will go through a private entity called the Idaho State Regional Center (ISRC), a federally approved EB-5 regional center that is authorized to facilitate immigration opportunities for foreign nationals who invest at least $500,000 in projects that create at least ten American jobs per investor.
Even more investment is expected to pour in over the next several months, and the real and lasting success of this story will play out into the future. Relationships and networks created during this trade mission will pave the way for more investments and career opportunities from ISRC projects and those of other EB-5 centers that will soon open in Idaho.
The trade mission also helped some companies understand what’s necessary before they can start selling to the huge, vibrant and complex Chinese market.
Robert Bishop, who leads international sales for Larsen Farms in Hamer – which sells compressed alfalfa hay for use by dairies and livestock producers – had this to say about what the trade mission will mean. “In those meetings it became apparent the Chinese customer requires a different package than what we now offer. We currently are contemplating a seven-figure-plus investment to our facility to meet these new packaging requirements.”
For Idaho Falls-based Melaleuca, already one of Idaho’s largest businesses, the trade mission provided a chance to sell more of its goods to millions of additional customers. All foreign companies are required to have a government license to conduct direct sales to consumers in China. Melaleuca got its license to do business in Shanghai while on a trade mission with me nearly three years ago. It’s seen consistent growth there ever since.
“Now that we have a license to conduct direct sales in China, we are looking to expand to five additional cities in China, which would open up our customer base to an additional 55 million people,” said Paul Haacke, Melaleuca’s vice president of International Sales.
Another triumph for Idaho’s economy to come out of the trade mission had to do with our famous Idaho potatoes. Frank Muir, president and CEO of the Idaho Potato Commission, saw phenomenal interest for Idaho potatoes. He told me they had very positive responses from Sam’s Club, Parkson and City Shop retailers for both frozen and dehydrated potato products. City Shop in Shanghai and Beijing already is planning to run a special American promotion that will include Idaho dehydrated mashed potatoes.
Doug Sayer, CEO of Blackfoot-based Premier Technology, understands just how important the Chinese market is – and also how complicated it can be. That’s why Doug invested his time and money in attending this trade mission.
“The successes don’t come overnight,” Sayer said. “With China, first you have to establish a relationship, almost a friendship, before business is conducted. We now are at the point in which we’re talking business and there are three potential projects we’re working on with a Chinese company. This trade mission took us steps closer to making significant projects a reality.”
There are similar success stories to tell from every one of the participants who traveled with me – successes that will help create new employment opportunities in every area of Idaho. I can’t wait to share more with Idahoans in the coming months as additional projects come to fruition.