State officials, business leaders headed to China

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(Host) State officials and business leaders will promote Vermont as a center for energy efficiency and environmental technology during a trade mission to China next week.

Officials say the mission may not immediately yield signed contracts or specific projects. But they say it should produce valuable contacts for Vermont companies.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) When Governor Douglas attends the opening of an international environmental protection conference in Beijing, he’ll be the highest ranking state official there.

And rank, Vermont’s China experts say, has its advantages.

(Picard) “I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for a high ranking official like the governor to go.”

(Dillon) Curtis Picard is the international trade specialist with the Vermont Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber has had an office in Shanghai for several years. Picard has been to China a number of times. He says the governor’s visit should help open more doors to Chinese officials and businesses.

(Picard) “It is also emphasizes to the Chinese people how serious Vermont is about doing business over there, and that we’re open to working with them. That goes a long way.”

(Dillon) Vermont as a small state on the east coast may seem like an unlikely trading partner with one of the world’s second largest economy. But the state has had a lengthy relationship with Taiwan and mainland China. Former Governor Howard Dean visited Taiwan in 1999. Lieutenant Governor Brian Dubie has been to China.

Commerce Secretary Kevin Dorn has traveled there twice. And Dorn says the state Chamber of Commerce has had a presence in Shanghai for 10 years.

(Dorn) “If we were looking around scanning the world for places of opportunity for Vermont businesses, we might be impeded from going to China because of its size. But because we have been there and because we have built relationships and we understand, to an extent, how the government works, and how the government makes decisions, we can provide that advantage to our companies. Other states aren’t there. New Hampshire’s not there. Maine’s not there.”

(Dillon) Dorn says he hopes to come back with agreements, called memorandums of understanding, between the governor and Chinese environmental or energy officials.

He says those agreements would be promises to work together that could then lead to solid business deals in the future.

(Dorn) “That would be the very best possible take away we could have from this. But you have to recognize that with the Chinese it takes a long time to build relationships and to get a level where there’s a written agreement.”

(Dillon) Traveling with Dorn and the governor will be representatives from IBM, Casella Waste management and the dean of UVM’s engineering school.

Chris Dutton, the CEO of Green Mountain Power, is also part of the delegation. Dutton hopes the Chinese are interested in learning more about the company’s renewable energy and efficiency programs.

(Dutton) “And we think we have an opportunity to share some of what we do here in Vermont and at Green Mountain Power in particular in terms of how we generate electricity and how we transmit and distribute it and how we in Vermont invest in efficiency programs to help hold down costs and be more effective in terms of customer service.”

(Dillon) The trade mission to China will last about a week. About 20 people will make up the delegation. The state will pick up the cost for the governor and other government employees.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon.

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