Governor Terry Branstad is in the midst of a trip to Europe that began with the signing of a sister-state agreement with Kosovo and is ending with meetings with the “decision-makers” of dozens of European companies.
“Many of them do have a presence in Iowa already, but we’ll be talking with them about potential expansions and things that are confidential,” Branstad said Tuesday. “I learned a long time ago you need to let the companies make their decisions on their timetable and not divulging any information prematurely is a very important part of building a relationship of trust.”
Iowa Economic Development Authority director Debi Durham is on the trip, too, and she said these are “high-level” meetings.
“The companies that we are calling in, we are meeting with the decision-makers, from the president to the chairman of the board,” Durham said.
Durham is scheduled to return to Kosovo in October, to travel the country with its ambassador to the U.S.
“To really get an understanding of the country and really identify the ways we can partner and one partnership is certainly Kemin,” Durham said. “Kemin has offered to do a seminar there educating folks around their agricultural industry and ways they can partner with them, so we really do see great opportunity.”
Kemin Industries is based in Des Moines. The company makes nutritional supplements for humans and for animals.
Branstad describes Kosovo as a “young, dynamic country” that’s made “great economic progress” since Kosovo declared its independence five years ago.
“They have a very positive feeling about the United States because we helped them gain their freedom,” Branstad said. “They’re very friendly and very open to suggestions and ideas and they’re very interested in building their nation’s economy.”
Branstad indicated there are many Iowa ties in Kosovo, too. Several of the leaders in Kosovo’s government were educated at Graceland University in Lamoni, Iowa, and the country’s court system was guided in the beginning by Larry Eisenhauer, the chief judge of the Iowa Court of Appeals who spent six months helping Kosovars set up their courts.
A dinner and reception were held in Kosovo this past weekend for Branstad and others from Iowa who were there to cement Iowa’s sister-state relationship with Kosovo. Branstad’s next stop was Italy, to connect people in another one of Iowa’s sister-states, the Veneto region of Italy.
Branstad was in Parma, Italy on Tuesday when he spoke by phone with reporters in Iowa. Branstad and Durham have a number of business-related meetings in Italy, Germany and Switzerland before they return to Iowa next Monday night.