SHANGHAI — Jeremy Hanks had never been to China before, so a trade mission there this week along with 19 other Utah businesses has proven enlightening.
"It's more of a long-term strategic trip," said Hanks, president of Orem-based Doba, a Web-based drop shipping platform. "It won't result in an actual contract or a business deal from here, but it definitely is helpful to understand basically a fourth of the world's population."
Representatives from a number of companies on the trip say they're convinced it will bring future opportunities.
"Overall there's potential for some long-term relationships here, so that we can bring back to Utah quality technical jobs," said Anthony Nickens, vice president of Ceramatec Inc.
The trip included visits to Beijing and Shanghai, a pair of uber-fast growing cities with 20 million plus residents.
Another first-time visitor, Gov. Gary Herbert, said he was amazed by the scale of Chinese development and construction and impressed by the business community's "embracement of free market principles."
Herbert, making his first trip outside of North America as governor, said "it'll translate into more jobs, more economic opportunity for Utahns and that's the importance of this visit."
In the Jinshan district of Shanghai, the governor signed a deal Thursday between that district, the state and Utah company Cosmas Inc. to invest in researching ways to turn methane from animal waste to fuel.
Also, Herbert said a half dozen governors from China's 32 provinces will be coming to Salt Lake in July for a first-ever meeting in Utah with U.S. governors at the National Governor's Association conference.
"We've already had some success with some of our business contacts, so it's been profitable and productive and I think even more is yet to come," Herbert said.
The trip included a reception Monday at Herbert's predecessor and now U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman Jr.'s residence in Beijing.
Those on the trip say Herbert's presence, along with the link to the former Utah governor, opened doors in the authoritarian capitalist country.
"(It's) very helpful," said Rich Hartvigsen, vice president Nu Skin Enterprises. "When the governor is here, we get meetings with very high level government officials. When he doesn't come, we typically get meetings with mid-level government officials."
Utah Valley University plans a conference on "Doing Business with China" next month.Comment on this story
School President Matt Holland envisions many future China-related projects, particularly after local businesses requested them.
"They said you need to help us with China," Holland said. "We don't see nearly enough going on with respect to China studies, it's the future of the economic world in many respects."
The four state lawmakers on the trade mission, Reps. David Clark, R-Santa Clara, Eric Hutchings, R-Kearns, Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, and Sen. Curtis Bramble, R-Provo, paid their own way, as did 20 companies and organizations who sent representatives.