A match made in China

South Dakota wants to establish a sister-state in China and it looks like Inner Mongolia might be the right match.

Speaking by phone from a trade mission stop in Shanghai on May 14, Gov. Dennis Daugaard said the trade mission group, including representatives of nine private businesses, state agencies and South Dakota State University, had just traveled to Shanghai earlier that day after spending several days in Inner Mongolia to meet with the province’s governor, government leaders and private industry members to discuss the potential of a sister-state relationship. The pairing came at the suggestion of both the U.S. and Chinese embassies and “seemed a good fit” for South Dakota, Daugaard said. While Inner Mongolia’s population of about 25 million vastly outnumbers South Dakota’s, it remains a largely rural, agriculture-based society – very similar to South Dakota, he said.

Dairy and livestock are major industries in Inner Mongolia, so trade mission attendees toured a dairy processing facility, one of the largest in China, while visiting the province and discussed increasing dairy products trade.

Daugaard said economic development and cultural and tourism exchanges would comprise the key aspects of a sister-state relationship. Having a Chinese sister-state would also benefit the state in that it would help increase awareness of South Dakota among the people and businesses in the province. “When you’re a small state like South Dakota, it’s a little bit harder to differentiate yourself and get the attention of the government,” he said. “When you go to a smaller province, they’re more rural – more like us – they’re not given as much attention by others. So when they get attention from a state like South Dakota that is similar to them, they pay attention. And because the government pays attention to us, it’s more likely they will urge [trade meetings] to occur.”

Another potential benefit of sister-state relationships is the ability to host reverse trade missions in South Dakota for representatives from the province. Daugaard said he spoke with Inner Mongolia’s minister of commerce about trips to the state and will continue to explore the possibility as discussions regarding the sister-state relationship move forward.

Brad Hennrich, president of Watertown, S.D.-based specialty grain company Hesco Inc., also spoke during the call and said he was appreciative of the state’s efforts to help private companies increase exports to China through trade missions such as this one. “This is not something we could have undertaken on our own,” he said.

China’s market for quality grains is growing rapidly, according to Hennrich, and the people of China are eager to incorporate U.S. grains into their diets in any number of products. Since landing in China last Friday, Hennrich said he has had several meetings with positive outcomes and he indicated that he expected at least one to translate into a future sale. China’s vast market includes export potential for a number of grains, including flax and barley, despite the fact that the country produces many of those same products, because China’s domestically produced crops are lower in quality. “What we have in the U.S. is what they want,” he said.

Kathleen Fairfax, assistant vice president for international affairs and outreach at South Dakota State University, said she was attending the trip as a representative of the state’s higher education institutions and was focused on encouraging greater enrollment of Chinese students at the state’s universities. There are about 250,000 Chinese students enrolled at universities in the U.S. every year, but only about 1,500 of them are enrolled in South Dakota, largely because the state is not well-known in China. Her pitch to Chinese universities, education officials and organizations focused on the safety and beauty of the state as well as the high quality of education and low cost of tuition. She said she hopes to increase collaboration between South Dakota universities and Chinese education stakeholders and is optimistic the state’s universities will attract more Chinese students as a result of the trade mission. “It’s been a great experience here so far,” she said.

South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard and Ba Teer, governor of Inner Mongolia’s autonomous region, at a meeting in Inner Mongolia held May 11 to discuss increasing trade between the state and province.

Grand Forks Region EDC celebrates stellar 2013

There was much to celebrate at the Grand Forks Region EDC’s annual meeting held in Grand Forks, N.D., at the Alerus Center on April 17. Business has boomed in the community over the past year and city leaders gave much of the credit to the organization and the cooperative efforts of the city’s business community.

Hal Gershman, city council president, noted that private support now exceeds public support for the EDC. “I’ve never seen such a cooperative environment as I’m seeing in our city today,” he told attendees.

Klaus Thiessen, president and CEO of the EDC, said 2013 was the busiest year he’s experienced at the EDC since joining the group a decade ago. Multiple EDC clients were mentioned for their successful establishment and/or expansion projects over the past year, including Acme Tools, which was the first business to sign on for a recently opened 125-acre business park and is constructing a warehouse and distribution center there. Cirrus Aircraft, Philadelphia Macaroni, Reile’s Transfer and Delivery and HB Light & Sound carried out expansion projects. Industrial Contract Services Inc. relocated its corporate headquarters to the city and True North Equipment built a new resource center.

In nearby Thompson, N.D., Thompson Farmer’s Cooperative and Northern Tier Seeds are expanding their storage capacities.

In all, the EDC clients invested more than $55 million in capital projects in 2013 and created or retained more than 528 jobs, according to the group.

Big projects under development in the region also received mention, including the massive fertilizer plant project being developed by Northern Plains Nitrogen. While construction of the $1.5 billion plant has yet to begin, the EDC noted that the project’s proposal has already spurred interest from other agri-business companies.

UAS (unmanned aerial systems) was unsurprisingly a recurring topic of the meeting and was highlighted as an area of continued focus for the EDC this year. Former Sen. Byron Dorgan delivered the meeting’s keynote speech and recapped the nearly decade-long process of successfully establishing UAS as a mission for the Grand Forks Air Base and, ultimately, the city’s selection as one of six federal UAS test sites. He applauded the city’s continued efforts to make Grand Forks “the place” for UAS and expressed confidence that the air base and region will continue to serve as a hub for UAS development. Thiessen noted that the UAS-focused Grand Sky business park at the Grand Forks Air Force Base will be the “singe most strategically important development” in over a decade.

Workforce issues were another repeated topic of discussion during the event. The EDC intends to continue working with businesses and the community to attract needed workers in the coming year, according to officials.

Steve Burian, chairman of the EDC, challenged attendees to embrace their role in helping Grand Forks create “dazzle” in 2014. “If we’re going to recruit people to this community, we need to be cool, we need to have dazzle,” he said.

Thiessen said workforce shortages have been a concern for several years, but the issue is now having a noticeable impact on business. He noted that an EDC job fair held last fall attracted 55 companies and 1,200 high school sophomores, but said he expects this year’s job fair to be even larger. Young workers are expected to be a primary focus.




International ag research conference headed to Fargo

The warmly lit greenhouses at NDSU’s new Agricultural Experiment Station served as a fitting backdrop for last week’s announcement that Fargo has been selected as the site of the 2016 Agricultural Biotechnology International Conference. The annual event, currently in its 17th year, is considered to be one of the premier gatherings for biotech researchers and industry leaders from around the world and promotes innovation through sustainable food, feed, fiber and fuel security as the climate changes. The Fargo event will mark the first time the conference has been held in the U.S. and much of the event is expected to center around research conducted at NDSU. Hosting organizations include AdFarm, the state agriculture department, NDSU and the Red River Valley Research Corridor.

Doug Goehring, North Dakota ag commissioner, was among the group of speakers gathered to discuss the conference and its expected impact on Fargo and the entire region. He said it is fitting that North Dakota be selected to host the ABIC because of its agriculturally rich history. “Contrary to popular belief, agriculture is still No. 1 in North Dakota,” he said.

NDSU President Dean Bresciani and Ken Grafton, NDSU vice president for agriculture and university extension, said the conference will present an opportunity to highlight the public-private partnership model embraced by NDSU and the state’s agriculture industry and noted that the public-private approach fits well with the conference’s focus on developing local solutions to innternational issues related to climate change.

Roger Reierson, president and CEO of Flint Group and AdFarm, will head the conference steering committee and said the event will give the area’s agriculture businesses and researchers an opportunity to provide input on global issues. Delore Zimmerman, executive director for the Red River Valley Research Corridor, said he expects the conference will produce new connections within the international ag community for attendees.

With two years left to plan, Reierson noted that the specific theme of the Fargo conference has not yet been determined but that the theme will likely have an impact on the types of attendees attracted to the conference.The 2013 ABIC, held in September in Calgary, Alberta, was primarily focused on energy and drew about 400 attendees from 23 countries. The 2014 ABIC will be held in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The 2015 event will be held in Melbourne, Australia.

Charley Johnson, president and CEO of the Fargo-Moorhead Convention & Visitors Conference said the ABIC is expected to provide a significant economic boost to the Fargo metro. “This is a huge win for us,” he said. “This is exactly the kind of conference we like to bring here.”

He speculated that the conference could also result in new businesses establishing in Fargo.

For more information on the ABIC, visit www.abic.ca.





Pride of Dakota enrolls 500th member company

Pride of Dakota, the flagship marketing program of the North Dakota Department of Agriculture, recently passed a major milestone, when The Master’s Hand, owned and operated by Sam Coleman, Mandan, became its 500th member company.


For more on Pride of Dakota, visit http://www.prairiebizmag.com/event/article/id/12117/group/Agriculture/