Skillman Hopes Chinese Trade Trip Lures Jobs
Indiana Delegation Sees China As Burgeoning Market
Last Updated: 1083 days ago
Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman arrived in Beijing for the second part of a 10-day mission to attract Chinese business investment to Indiana.The lieutenant governor hopes to use the trip, which she called an agricultural trade mission, to help form closer relationships between Indiana and Chinese government officials.Skillman said she wants to bring new agricultural business to towns in Indiana that are recovering from the recent economic recession."At times of economic difficulty as we have experienced these past 18 months, it's even more important to seek out new markets for our Hoosier-made products and also encourage more investment in our state," Skillman said.In the first part of the journey, Skillman traveled with a 26-delegate group of Indiana business and government officials to the capital of the Chinese province of Zhejiang that, according to the lieutenant governor, has a 23-year sister-state relationship with Indiana.The members of the delegation include representatives from Indiana companies such as Duke Energy and Indiana Farm Bureau. They are using the trip to meet with their Chinese counterparts and learn ways to better conduct international trade."There's hardly a community in the state of Indiana that doesn't have a foreign-owned company providing jobs for our friends and neighbors," Skillman said. "A few Indiana mayors have been very aggressive on their own going after (Chinese business), but as you might imagine, not every local government official is comfortable with the idea of traveling to China and seeking out investment."Columbus, Ind., whose economic development board recently opened a trade office in Shanghai, is one Indiana city that is working to attract Chinese investment."There are many Chinese suppliers who are interested in expanding their businesses to the U.S.," said Gary Fan, Columbus' Chinese representative. "I think this is the right time and a good opportunity for both countries."Using similar strategies, the Columbus Economic Development Board said it has attracted more than 10,000 jobs from countries such as Japan, Germany, France, India, Switzerland and Canada over the past few decades.According to Skillman, Indiana currently exports about $1 billion in agricultural products to China every year, $600 million of that attributed to soybeans.Skillman said she hopes Indianas relationship with China will someday resemble the relationship the state now has with Japan, whose companies currently employ about 45,000 Hoosiers.In the next few days the lieutenant governors delegation will be visiting China Agricultural University and attending an event at a Stellar Cinema Group theater.Stellar Cinema is a Chinese movie theater company celebrating the opening of its 100th screen. It is a customer of Indiana-based Weaver Popcorn.Skillman will end her trip with a meeting with the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture before traveling back to Indiana June 10. More: Skillman's Blog More: Shanghai World Expo Editor's Note: Jack Meyer, one of five Ball State University students in China for the event, contributed this story.