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Brad Bodenhausen
Brad Bodenhausen

Chamber, MSU offer link to China

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During the July 25 meeting of the Greater Ozarks International Trade Association, representatives from Missouri State University and the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce provided evidence of a growing link between Springfield and China.

Brent Kembell, a certified public accountant for Kirkpatrick Phillips & Miller CPAs, was one of 26 attendees at that meeting, held at the Tower Club. He gave strong praise for the presentation, which covered various trade opportunities.

Jim Baker, MSU’s vice president of research and economic development, and Brad Bodenhausen, the chamber’s executive vice president, spoke about the informal partnership their organizations struck three years ago, aimed at helping area businesses tap into the vast Chinese market.

For Kembell, hearing Baker and Bodenhausen speak about China brought back memories of his yearlong tenure in 2004 as an accounting and economics teacher at MSU’s branch campus in Dalian, China. Back then, MSU and the chamber were just figuring out how they could help each other, and Springfield companies.

“It was neat to see how it has evolved from that exploratory visit from the chamber of commerce to now,” Kembell said. “(They have) a much better idea of the plan going forward and how to connect businesses.”

Baker said MSU’s work in China began in 1998 when it teamed with Qingdao Uiniversity in Qingdao, China. By 2000, MSU had established its own campus in Dalian, which now serves 500 students.

“About three years into that whole deal, we were starting to learn quite a bit about China and making a lot of contacts, so we approached the chamber and said, ‘It looks to us like this might be a good opportunity for some businesses in Springfield to at least get exposure to China,’” Baker said.

Thus the partnership was born. It’s an informal arrangement, even lacking an official name. However, it can be a valuable tool for a business interested in trading with the world’s most populous country.

MSU and the chamber offer to share knowledge and contacts with interested companies, Baker said.

The chamber has cooperative agreements with chambers of commerce in Dalian and Zhengzhou, and MSU allows access to Chinese students for internships or help on special projects.

The partnership has even spurred trips to China for business delegations in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

Bodenhausen chuckled when he recalled taking Bob Beine of Republic Ford to the lone Ford dealership in Dalian, a city of about 6 million people, earlier this year.

“He liked that,” Bodenhausen joked.

Tapping into that kind of market is tantalizing for area businesses when domestic sales are slow, said Jeannette Fitzpatrick, GOITA board secretary and export account executive for Marisol International, a worldwide logistics and documentation services company based in Springfield.

The trade volume between Missouri and China is already big, according to the Missouri Department of Economic Development. In 2006, China was Missouri’s fourth largest buyer with about $770 million in export purchases, a 54 percent increase from 2005.

Amy Herbel, an attendee at the July 25 GOITA meeting, is involved with many of the local companies that have taken the plunge into China. She’s senior international sales executive with FedEx and services about 4,000 international accounts for her region from Springfield, including Bass Pro Shops.

Other Springfield companies that have explored China on various levels are Incredible Pizza Co., SRC Holdings Corp., Butler Rosenbury & Partners Inc. and Buxton-Kubik-Dodd Interiors & Architecture.

Drury University also is getting involved in China. It will require master of business administration students to spend a week in China beginning this fall.

The surface of opportunity in China has just been scratched, according to Maria Desloge, associate director of DED’s China Trade & Development Office. The country of more than a billion people has a growing middle class, a growing taste for materialism and a head-spinning rate of development, she said.

“It’s funny. Over there, they’re termed as ‘midsize’ cities even though they have 5 (million) or 6 million (people),” Bodenhausen said.

“It’s so huge in terms of the population, the scope (and) the size of what’s going on (that) it’s kind of daunting to know where to start. When it’s such a relationship-based culture, we felt like finding areas where (MSU) has the connection we can build on that relationship and continue to expand that to the business community.”

MSU offers degrees to Chinese executives

Missouri State University will offer a graduate-level program beginning Sept. 10 to 34 executives from China who are looking to learn the American ways of business.

The students who complete the yearlong program will earn an executive master of business administration degree through MSU’s College of Business Administration.

The Chinese students are from provincial governments and will be financially sponsored by their respective agencies. They will travel to the United States under a U.S. J-1 cultural exchange visa.

“The purpose of the program is to give the visiting Chinese executives exposure to business procedures, management tools, concepts and principals, as well as cultural exposures to American society, government and nongovernment organizations that they are not likely to obtain through MBA programs taught in China,” said Ron Bottin, dean of MSU’s College of Business Administration, in a news release.

MSU also will offer some noncredit seminars and opportunities for students to tour local companies and organizations. Another group from China is scheduled to begin in January.

The program is modeled after a recently completed program that allowed St. John’s physicians to earn an executive master of business administration degree at MSU.[[In-content Ad]]

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