Governor Terry Branstad and a delegation of about 20 Iowans are wrapping up a week of meetings with officials and business leaders in South Korea. Branstad and Iowa Economic Development Authority director Debi Durham briefed Iowa reporters by phone this morning.
“The past several days have proven to be quite hectic and fruitful, but it appears that is how we roll,” Durham said, with a laugh. “Elevating international trade and investment is absolutely the right strategy for Iowa and the nation.”
Branstad and Durham have met with executives from South Korean companies that already have operations in places like Cedar Rapids and Fort Dodge, plus Durham said they’ve been “prospecting for new opportunities” that they cannot discuss. The governor and his economic development director also met with one of the top three law firms in South Korea.
“It’s a law firm that really specializes in business law and they work with a lot of companies as they’re looking to invest and what they were telling us is, ‘Obviously we see great opportunity with investment in America and more importantly in the Midwest,'” Durham said. “And so that was an extremely positive meeting not only for us to learn more about their services in the Korean market, but more importantly for us to tell them the Iowa story.”
South Korea is the 9th largest purchaser of Iowa goods and commodities. Durham said exporting more Iowa pork and beef to South Korea has been one focus of the trip.
“Korea is a country two-thirds the size of Iowa with only four million acres of farmland to feed a growing population of 51 million people,” Durham said. “Iowa, on the other hand, has over 31 million acres of farmland and three million people.”
The president of the Iowa Farm Bureau, the dean of the University of Iowa’s College of Engineering, Iowa business executives and professional developers from cities around the state are part of the Iowa delegation. The U.S. Ambassador to South Korea hosted a reception at his residence Wednesday night for all the Iowans. The ambassador told Branstad no other U.S. governor has traveled to Korea more frequently.
Branstad and the delegation leave Korea on Sunday, headed to Tokyo for the annual Midwest U.S./Japan Association’s annual conference. Iowa hosted the conference last year.