By Gov. Dennis Daugaard
As Governor, my job is almost always here in South Dakota. Last week, however, I had the opportunity to lead a delegation of South Dakota business and agricultural leaders on a trade mission to China.
One of my top priorities has been increasing our state's exports and helping South Dakota companies sell our world-class products to consumers across the nation and around the globe.
Last year, South Dakota received a State Trade and Export Promotion grant from the Small Business Administration for our first trade mission to China. It was a small group, but the experience opened our eyes to the significant opportunities for South Dakota companies. Even with our limited experience, our efforts from a year ago led to signed contracts to sell South Dakota goods to Chinese consumers and investors.
Last week, we returned to China with grounded expectations, better business contacts, and a much larger trade delegation.
Through an application process, eleven export-ready businesses and three agricultural commodity groups were selected to join the trade mission. I couldn't be more pleased that so many South Dakota companies expressed interest in the trip, and I sincerely wish they all could have joined us.
We started our trade mission in Beijing before traveling to Shanghai and Hong Kong to meet with more business contacts. Those Chinese cities are densely populated, and the atmosphere was far different from South Dakota's clean, wide-open spaces.
As it was, we had a very a busy week. Our time in China was booked morning to night. We attended meetings for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and had many other meetings outside those periods to maximize the productivity of our time. Members of the South Dakota trade delegation participated in more than 80 business-to-business meetings.
It is difficult to break into a market when you must overcome language, legal, and cultural barriers. We understood that from the outset. Still, the presence of South Dakota government officials helped to provide legitimacy to our businesses and helped them accomplish their goals by meeting with key Chinese officials and business leaders.
While it is still too early to measure success, I am optimistic that the diligent work of our business and agriculture groups in China will develop into very beneficial trade partnerships.
In the meantime, I am glad to be back in South Dakota, my home.