Nebraska now has a new tool to advertise the benefits of investing and setting up shop in the Cornhusker State.
Six years after opening its first international trade office in Japan, the state Department of the Economic Development has opened a second office of its kind, this time in China. The office, named the Nebraska Center China, will better allow companies, industrialists, and manufacturers in the Midwestern state to enter and expand in China, Nebraska’s fourth-largest trading partner.
State officials say the following services will accordingly be provided:
- Business counseling related to all markets
- Promotion of products and services
- Assistance with identifying potential business partners
- Helping cultivate prospective customers
- Trade show representation
- Access to key communications channels
- Attracting greater Chinese investment
Furthermore, the office has been set up using the same successful model Nebraska used when it opened its first international trade office in Japan six years ago, Catherine Lang, the department’s director, tells Industry Today.
“Since 2007, the state of Nebraska has had an international presence in Japan, and based on that effort and initiative – especially with our development with companies interested in exporting to China and companies in China interested in locating in the US – we felt using that same model would be a benefit to the state,” she says.
So far, firms statewide have given a thumbs-up on the new trade office, officials say.
“There are many companies that are considering and looking forward to doing business in China, and they see that having a Nebraska office (in China) provides them with a more efficient way to enter the Chinese market and further expand operations and production,” she says.
Collaborating with Nebraska in this initiative is the Shanghai Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) Center for International Cooperation. The well-informed Chinese trade organization is comparable to a large international chamber of commerce, with more than 360,000 members active in international trade and investment, says Joe Chapuran, international manager at the Nebraska Department of Economic Development.
The SME Center has been an economic development partner in China since signing a memorandum of understanding during Nebraska’s first Reserve Trade Mission in 2008. It has since introduced a number of Shanghai regional manufacturers to Nebraska for trade and investment opportunities.
“We have had a good partnership with that organization for about four or five years, and they knew that we wanted to make our efforts in China stronger and have somebody full-time on the ground,” Chapuran tells Industry Today. “This will allow us to attract more Chinese companies who want to invest in Nebraska and have them come over and set up operations here. It will also help Nebraska companies who are looking to export to or enter the Chinese market.”
Which can often be an overwhelming and perplexing business step, he adds.
“You can imagine how difficult it can be to enter a market like China’s, where you might not know all of their regulations or policies. It’s also a different language, culture, and economy,” Chapuran says. “A lot of companies (in Nebraska) think of this as a valuable resource, having a bilingual worker on the ground that can help with interacting with Chinese distributors and customers.”
Only Mexico, Canada, and Japan, respectively, are above China on Nebraska’s growing list of top international trading partners. With this new office, plus the country’s fast-growing marketplace, China could leapfrog Japan for the state’s No. 3 spot in the years to come, Chapuran says.
There is good reason to suggest why. Chapuran explains that state exports to China have more than doubled over the last five years, increasing 36 percent alone in 2011. Likewise, combined exports amounted to more than $380 million last year, up from nearly $279 million in 2010.
Chapuran adds that Nebraska will benefit from China’s Go Out policy, a countrywide strategy that encourages its enterprises to invest overseas.
“This is not only a government effort, but it is also a general business trend,” he says. “The Chinese want to be more global, to be more consumer brand names, and to be closer to its consumer market. Also, labor and transportation costs have gone up in China.”
As a result, Chinese firms are considering setting up operations overseas. When they do, think Nebraska, Chapuran says.
“This trend will continue, and we want to be in front of the Chinese companies looking to go global, and we want them to think of Nebraska as the place to do that,” he says. “Many of these companies want to set up operations in the US, but they don’t know where to go. Now, with our first China trade office, we can speak to them about the benefits of coming to Nebraska.”