In welcoming scores of Chinese and American business leaders to Omaha, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts said that he believes the state’s relationship with China will grow.
“In China, we see the middle classes are increasing tremendously,” Ricketts said on Friday. “That presents opportunities for us to expand the relationship. In Nebraska, we think long term.”
“That’s actually one of the things that is very similar between the Nebraska culture and Chinese culture — emphasis on long term. That’s why I think the relationship with China will grow,” he said.
The governor said that China is the state’s second largest trade partner outside of North America and one of the fastest-growing: “Nebraska exported $1.3 billion of products last year to China,” he said.
Elaborating on the state government’s effort to improve education, regulation and the tax system, Ricketts invited business leaders to consider investing in the state.
“We seek those Chinese companies who look to invest in Nebraska to help them to grow their business in the US, help them to leverage our regulatory and tax environment, our central location and the shared culture value,” Ricketts said.
Compared to other states such as Texas or California, Chinese direct investment in Nebraska is relatively small. The notable Chinese investments include a $3 million investment in shipping and logistics by Easyway International of Xi’an, Shaanxi province, and a $25 million investment in Worldlawn Power Equipment by Jiangsu World Group from Zhenjiang, Jiangsu province.
To attract more business from China, Ricketts visited China twice since he took office in 2015, with the last trip in November 2016. Ricketts said that he took more than 70 businesspeople with him.
During the last trip, Ricketts and Shaanxi province’s governor Hu Heping formalized Nebraska and Shaanxi province’s relationship as sister states.
“Basically, we had investment summits in Shanghai and Xi’an. We tried to connect business leaders together to see where we can find those relationships and where to invest.”
“We visited Jiangsu World Group. They make lawnmowers in Nebraska and farming equipment in China; it’s a kind of a natural relationship there.”
He also witnessed Nebraska’s Preferred Popcorn extend its relationship with its Chinese partner Zhong Liang Tian Run Trading Inc to sell an additional 10 million pounds of Nebraska popcorn to China.
Nebraska is strong in agriculture, and Ricketts said that’s where Nebraska and China can grow the relationship the most.
“That’s why when we were in China last fall, we broke ground on a demonstration Nebraska farm in Yangling. The idea is to show what technology and processes we have in agriculture to Chinese farmers and see how they may be able to use that.”
Ricketts said that Nebraska is the largest irrigable state in the US, and 80 percent of center pivot irrigation equipment is made in the state. “China might take advantage of that technology,” he said.
Ricketts had taken his family to China for sightseeing before he became governor, and said his favorite city is Xi’an.
“China is a beautiful country with friendly people. I love history, and China has history more than anyplace else. I love going to Xi’an to see terracotta soldiers and the first Qin Dynasty. I am a history buff, and I love to learn what people did a long time ago,” Ricketts said of his impression of China.