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Bringing the World to Utah
With a focus on economic development, Gov. Gary R. Herbert has set a goal for the state to participate in four international trade missions each year. A trade mission to China became an obvious match for the state, as former Gov. Jon Huntsman was serving as an ambassador there. “I think Utah’s motto should be, ‘Utah. I had no idea that...’ and then fill in the blanks: it’s so friendly, so clean, so efficient, so high-tech. Each of those characteristics really struck some chords while we were in China,” Cramer says of the mission. Before returning home, Herbert implored Chinese leaders to visit Salt Lake City. In late July, they took him up on the offer. In conjunction with the National Governor’s Association meeting, Salt Lake City hosted the US China 2011 Trade, Culture and Education Conference. Four Chinese provincial leaders were in attendance, joined by 150 Chinese business leaders, academics and economic development directors from eight Chinese provinces.
“This was historic,” Cramer says of the event. “For the first time in the history of the United States, we had four provincial governors here—representing 178 million Chinese citizens. We had the opportunity to show off Utah at the highest level.”
More than just the sheer numbers of attendees, what set the event apart from other trade missions were the areas of both countries that were represented. “Every Chinese person knows where New York and California are, just like every American knows where Beijing and Shanghai are,” Cramer explains. “We in Utah and these provincial governors represent the vast midland of our countries. We need to get to know each other.”
For Americans, building relationships with China is especially prudent, given the state of both the U.S. and Chinese economies. “There is a very real synergy between the Chinese and the Americans right now because the Chinese have capital and the Americans have ideas,” Cramer says. “Traditionally, when you blend those two together you have success.”
Face-to-face meetings are invaluable when facilitating international trade, he adds.
“In international business, the most important distance is the last three feet—where you look at someone, shake their hand, give them a business card, and determine whether or not you can do business with them.”
China isn’t the only country the Beehive State has its sights set on. In November, Herbert has another trade mission scheduled to western Canada. For the past six years, Canada has been Utah’s second-largest trading partner (after the United Kingdom). The trade mission will give Utah companies the opportunity to build upon the strong trade ties already established between the two nations.
Beyond the Goal
Cramer says reaching President Obama’s goal of doubling exports is just the first step in the bigger picture for Utah’s economy. “We need to make Utah a globally minded state—in our education, our immigration policies, in our economic development.”
He says the state is headed in the right direction because it is committed to what he calls the “Three Cs: collaboration, cooperation and communication.” That begins at the top, with Herbert looking for any opportunity to show off the state’s assets and constant efforts to create new partnerships.
“The main reason we focus on exports is because Utah exports create Utah jobs—higher-paying, longer-lasting, higher-skilled jobs,” Cramer says. “We’re not just competing with Colorado or New Mexico; we’re competing with Brazil and Russia and India. We’re part of a global economy. We need to be globally competitive.”