Making the Case for the Midwest

Making the Case for the Midwest

Former governor already has helped one city in the Midwest land a Chinese manufacturer.

Former Missouri Gov. Bob Holden sees a virtually "unlimited" economic development opportunity in China's surge into the United States, and he believes he can play a role in helping the Midwest get its share of the pie.

As chairman of the Midwest U.S.-China Association, a nonprofit organization that promotes commerce between 12 Midwest U.S. states and China, Holden hopes he can market the Midwest's strengths to prospective Chinese investors.

"Our problem has been that people don't normally think of us right off the bat," Holden tells IndustryWeek. "They think of California, New York, Florida or Texas, when in fact if they would look at the Midwest -- and the work ethic, infrastructure and amenities we have -- I think we have a lot to offer. The Midwest can be very successful in this global competition once we get the word out about who we are and what we have to offer."

As chairman of the Midwest U.S.-China Association, former Missouri Gov. Bob Holden hopes to market the Midwest's strengths to prospective Chinese investors.
Holden points out that the association "hasn't been too active" since its inception in 2004. But Holden, who became chairman a few months ago, is trying to change that. He is trying to drum up new members, organize annual conferences in the United States and China and play a more active role in economic development.

Holden already has helped one city in the Midwest land a Chinese manufacturer. When a site-selection consultant for Hong Kong-based Mamtek International Ltd. asked Holden to facilitate the companys search for a U.S. location, Holden reached out to economic development officials in all 12 member states to gauge their interest.

Site-selection consultant Thomas Smith says Holden's involvement in the process "let us look at an extremely large number of states and cities in a really compressed fashion." Mamtek broke ground on a site in Moberly, Mo., just 120 days after the company began its search, one of the fastest site-selection timelines Smith has seen.

At times in the process, Holden notes that he served as a liaison between Mamtek and state economic development officials, helping both sides understand the "nuances" of the signals that they were sending each other in their negotiations. He sees this as a potentially important role in future efforts to attract foreign companies to the Midwest.

"Those nuances are so very important," Holden says. "Particularly when you're dealing with a foreign company, being a former elected official still has standing in their society. It helps to bridge some of those gaps in our traditional business system."

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