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Trade mission to tout Ohio in China

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Megan Reichert- Kral, director of business incubation at the University of Toledo, will travel to China to promote investment in Ohio.

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By this time next week, two from northwest Ohio and 15 others from the state will be busy touting the benefits of the Buckeye State half way around the world.

The group will be on a nine-day trade mission to three cities in China - Beijing, Wuhan, and Shanghai - in hopes of convincing Chinese companies that, if they expand in the United States, to try Ohio first.

"Some folks are looking for suppliers, but the focus of this trip is reinvestment in Ohio, and in my case, northwest Ohio," Megan Reichert-Kral, director of business incubation at the University of Toledo, said.

She and Jim Rush, senior vice president of Becker/CMCA, a Toledo marketing firm, are the area's representatives on the trip organized by Ohio Department of Development Director Lisa Patt-McDaniel.

The trip begins Monday in Beijing and concludes June 30 in Shanghai.

The trip costs the state $30,200 and each delegate is paying $4,675 to attend. Each delegate has to provide his or her own transportation to China. Mr. Rush left last night; Ms. Reichert-Kral will depart early Monday.

Becker/CMCA is a joint venture between George A. Becker & Co. of Cleveland, a firm that has represented several Chinese firms doing business in the United States, and Communica, a Toledo marketing firm.

Mr. Rush said he will do research in China for a client in Cleveland, but he also will be busy promoting northwest Ohio when he joins up with the state delegation.

"We will be asking [Chinese officials] to strongly consider Toledo and northwest Ohio as a hub for doing business," Mr. Rush said.

Chinese firms, he said, will be made aware of the region's proximity to key cities, and its airport, seaport, and rail capabilities. He said he has meetings with several Chinese transportation and logistics firms that may want to set up distribution and warehousing operations.

Ms. Reichert-Kral said she intends to discuss UT's incubator program, and tout it as a good starting place for Chinese firms looking to invest in Ohio.

"I absolutely think the incubator would be a good place for a company trying to get themselves established in the area," she said. The university has resources to help with site selection and business contacts.

Another focus of the trip is renewable energy, and meetings have been set up with Chinese firms involved in both solar and wind energy, Mr. Rush said.

Foreign direct investment by Chinese firms in the United States has grown by an average of 30 percent annually between 2004 and 2008, one of the fastest investment growth rates in the world, a department of development spokesman said.

Other participants on the trip include economic development officials, local governments, corporate and professional service providers, manufacturers and service companies, labor leaders, and officials from university and research institutions.

Contact Jon Chavez at: jchavez@theblade.com or 419-724-6128.

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