Officials believe Branstad's India trip could prompt job growth


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As Gov. Terry Branstad prepares to travel to India, local experts and legislators say a chance for Iowa to strengthen its relationship with one of the world’s fastest growing economies presents a wealth of benefits and opportunities.

Branstad will be in India from Sept. 10-16. In a press release, he said he hopes to expand business and trade opportunities between Iowa and India.

“India’s economy has transformed in the last couple of decades and is forecast to be one of the world’s largest economies in coming years,” he said in the release. “With India’s tremendous growth and a burgeoning young and career-oriented middle class, it is an excellent opportunity to promote Iowa as a U.S. headquarters for Indian companies, particularly those in biotech, information solutions, and advanced manufacturing, and also open new trade doors for Iowa small and midsize businesses.”

Sen. Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, said he believes Iowa has recently begun to attract more businesses based on technology such as Facebook and Microsoft, which creates jobs for Iowans. Indian technology-based companies moving to Iowa could have a similar effect, he said.

“Gov. Branstad campaigned tirelessly on increasing jobs in Iowa,” he said. “His biggest goal is to create jobs in this state, and this trip to India shows that he is focusing on that goal.”

Sen. Jack Hatch, D-Des Moines, said while building a strong relationship with India is important, he is concerned about Branstad’s goals for the trip. The agenda is still being created, and details have not yet been released. Hatch said he hopes to see specific goals rather than a general introducing of Iowa to India for potential business advances.

“You could market Iowa by using a shotgun that would create a wide and broad marketing strategy hoping one of your ideas or pellets actually hit somewhere, or you could go over there saying, ‘I’m going to increase agriculture exports to India by 10 percent over the next year,’ ” he said. “That would be a specific goal.”

Despite Hatch’s concerns, Branstad’s trip is receiving bipartisan support from Sen. Jeff Danielson, D-Cedar Falls, who said Iowa is a part of a global economy and the more positive relationships the governor can build around the world, the better.

“Anytime our governor can meet with community and business leaders in India and understand those economic relationships is a good thing,” he said. “Obviously, if there’s a tangible outcome, that’s always a good thing, but being present and sharing our expectations and the needs of India’s decision makers is important.”

While the effect on Iowa’s economy is perhaps the largest benefit, experts say there are other political benefits that can result of a strong relationship with India.

“India is a potentially important partner for the U.S. in Asia,” Brian Lai, a University of Iowa associate professor of political science, wrote in an email. “The recent policy of tilting toward Asia includes establishing better relations with countries such as India, who have had past conflicts with China and thus potentially could serve as a valuable ally in dealing with China.”

William Reisinger, a UI professor of political science, said India is strategically located near countries the United States has an interest in. He also said Branstad’s trip presents a great opportunity for cultural exchange.

“India is home to one of the great cultural histories of the world,” he said. “It’s a great source of people to be students at our universities and work at our businesses. [There are] lots of different possibilities.”

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