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Trade Mission

21 Michigan businesses accompany Governor Snyder to China

By Noah Purcell

Page 38

In September, Governor Snyder led his second Michigan delegation to China with two distinct missions and objectives. The primary focus was to increase the profile of the state as an ideal location for foreign direct investment (FDI) from China. This effort was supported by the business attraction teams at both the Michigan Economic Development Corporation as well as the Detroit Regional Chamber.  The second objective was to foster new opportunities and channels for Michigan businesses to find trade opportunities in the middle kingdom. In total, 50 delegates from the state, including 21 Michigan businesses, crisscrossed southern China, racking up 4,000 miles, as the group traveled from the mega-city of Shanghai to Hangzhou, Wuhan, Guiyang and Chengdu.

The FDI delegation consisted of approximately 12 participants, led by Governor Snyder. In each new city the Michigan team met with key provincial and local leadership, as well as CEOs and entrepreneurs who are leading China’s investment overseas. In total, the FDI delegation conducted meetings with eight provincial governors, vice governors and mayors to open dialogue and build relationships. Many of these individuals are central in approving Chinese FDI projects overseas. Additionally, the FDI delegation met with more than 50 targeted CEOs with stated interests in expanding into the North American market.

The lasting impact was the Governor’s ability to deliver a strong message about why Michigan is an ideal location for Chinese investment and partnership and specifically how the MEDC and Chamber were ready to partner to help their companies find success in the United States. This message was further amplified within China through interviews the Governor conducted with local media, with over 100 media reports verified by the MEDC.

As the FDI delegation wove its way through China, the trade delegation followed, visiting six cities in 11 days to promote the exporting of Michigan made products and services. For many of the 21 businesses on the export trip, the trade mission was an important first look at a new market.

“The trip was very well-planned, flawlessly organized as far as I’m concerned. Moving forward I would feel very comfortable hopping on a plane to Shanghai tonight, we don’t have to wait for another Governor-oriented trade mission. I know where to go and where to stay and who to meet with and who to work with … There is pretty high value to things like that, those are big learning curves to overcome,” Garden Fresh Gourmet Vice Chairman Dave Zilko said.

“China is the ultimate emerging market and we were very curious to see if there was a market for our products there and if there was, how could we begin to develop it,” Zilko said.

Highlighting the value for Michigan companies looking to make a pivot to Asia, Gov. Snyder presided over the re-opening of the Michigan China Center in Shanghai, which will provide assistance to Michigan companies seeking export opportunities. In a business culture heavily reliant on face-to-face meetings, having an office to maintain relationships and provide essential services such as translation was crucial to members of the Michigan coalition.

The Michigan companies on the trade mission participated in more than 180 business matchmaking meetings with potential Chinese partners, distributors and buyers. Five mission participants are planning to commit to representation by the new Michigan China Center through their “Envoy” program, and one company is exploring hiring three mandarin speaking employees in Michigan as a result of the mission.

Noah Purcell is a Metro Detroit freelance writer.