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State, Springfield chambers plan China trips

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For about $2,000, area businesspeople have two opportunities to explore China in the coming months.

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry is sponsoring an Oct. 7–15 trip, while the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce is planning a getaway March 20–28. Both trips are open to the public and are designed for the business professional as much as the casual tourist.

The excursion out of Springfield costs $100 more, or $2,099, for travelers staying in double-occupancy rooms. The journeys begin with flights from Los Angeles to Beijing, with costs not including travel to and from L.A.

Monterey Park, Calif.-based Citslinc International is hosting both events and offering nearly identical itineraries, with stops in Beijing, a visit to the Great Wall, flights to Shanghai and bus trips to Suzhou and Hangzhou. Each includes a tour of an economic development zone in Hangzhou and an additional business networking opportunity in Shanghai.

Kristin Lochner, manager of special events for the Springfield chamber, said this year’s trip is less business-oriented than previous excursions.

“This trip is definitely not as focused on international business development,” Lochner said, acknowledging indications among economists that China’s manufacturing efforts may be losing an edge to American counterparts.

Fabricators & Manufacturers Association International has projected China would lose manufacturing market share and have no cost advantage compared to the U.S. by 2016.

The Springfield chamber has helped organize five previous trips that took a total of roughly 60 people to China, said Executive Vice President Brad Bodenhausen. Those excursions, which began in 2004, were hosted with Missouri State University and focused primarily on business development.

Joe Jenkins, business manager for Springfield-based Jenkins Diesel Power Inc., has visited China three times on trips sponsored by MSU and the chamber.

“From the cultural aspects of dealing in China … the trips were very successful,” Jenkins said. “In China, relationships come first. After a relationship has been established, then the possibilities for business exist.”

His experiences with the Dalian Chamber of Commerce taught him how to conduct business in China and led Jenkins Diesel to work with a diesel engine and parts distributor in Singapore, which sells into mainland China. Though sales to Singapore have been minimal, Jenkins said business could pick up this year.

Brian Hammons, owner of Stockton-based black walnut distributor Hammons Products Co., said a Springfield chamber trip to Dalian and Shanghai in 2006 has led to “a few thousand dollars” to date in sales to China.

“We now are trying to develop markets for American black walnuts in China and are actively seeking distributor arrangements,” Hammons said, noting that sales of other nuts have skyrocketed in China in recent years.

Springfield chamber President Jim Anderson learned about the Citslinc-hosted trips, which include English-speaking guides and the development zone tours, while attending an American Chamber of Commerce Executives conference, Lochner said. According to the Missouri chamber, Citslinc International has offered China tours for 28 years and partnered with more than 600 chambers across the country. Lochner said next year’s trip would be the first time the Springfield organization has worked with Citslinc.

She said 40 individuals attended an informational meeting in April, and as of June 8, one person had registered.

“For still being around a year away from the trip, we thought 40 people coming to the informational meeting was a pretty good turnout,” Lochner said.

She said another such meeting would be scheduled in the fall. Lochner said she expected between 50 and 100 people to take the trip, but there was the capacity to take up to 300.

A $200 nonrefundable deposit is due at the time of registration, which has a deadline of Dec. 30 for the Springfield-sponsored excursion, while those traveling with the Missouri Chamber must have their $300 deposits and registrations in by July 15. A call to the Missouri chamber was not returned by press time.

Full payment for travel packages is due with registration. Packages include roundtrip airfare to Beijing from Los Angeles; four- and five-star hotel accommodations; three meals daily; bus tours; English-speaking tour guides; and entrance fees for attractions.

Passports and travel visas are required, and Citslinc will handle the visa application for $155.  

While the Springfield-sponsored journey includes a number of leisure and sightseeing opportunities, Lochner said individuals interested in pursuing a business relationship with a Chinese partner would be able to set up meetings following tours of the business districts.[[In-content Ad]]

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