By Brian E. Clark
Speaking from Beijing today, Gov. Jim Doyle touted his meetings with numerous Chinese government and business officials. He said the contacts have the potential to pay big dividends in the years to come.
On the concrete side, he reported that the Beijing Capital International Airport will buy two snow removal trucks from Oshkosh Truck for $1 million. Just last week, the same airport bought six fire trucks from Oshkosh for $5 million.
“China’s airports are expanding dramatically,” said Doyle, whose trade mission to Japan and China – with 70 Wisconsin business and government officials – ends this week. “Beijing alone is spending $4 billion. They need cranes and other equipment that we can supply.”
Doyle also said he attended a ceremony at the Peoples Liberation Army Hospital to celebrate the upcoming installation of a TomoTherapy cancer treatment machine. He said China’s hospitals are also rapidly modernizing, meaning many more machines could be sold in the future.
“My pitch here has been that if you want to buy high quality products that require highly trained workers, Wisconsin is the place to go because of companies like Kohler, Johnson Controls, GE Healthcare, Oshkosh and TomoTherapy,” he said.
Though Doyle acknowledged that Wisconsin has lost thousands of jobs to China, he said that country is now Wisconsin’s fastest-growing export market and the third-largest export market overall, up from fourth-largest in 2005.
For 2006, he said the state’s exports to China were $870 million, representing a 29 percent increase over 2005. Strong export commodities in 2006 include machinery, up 35 percent to $338 million; electrical machinery, up 48 percent to $121 million; and paper/paperboard up 80 percent to $12 million.
Since Doyle’s first trade mission to China in 2004, Wisconsin exports to China have increased by 116 percent. And, in just the first quarter of this year, our exports are up 75 percent.
Doyle said he also toured a number of Olympic sites and saw floors that came from Robbins Sport Robbins Sport Surfaces of Whitelake, which provided the maple flooring for the Capital Gym in Beijing and a 26,000 square-foot portable basketball court for the Nanjing Sports Centre, both serving as Olympic training centers.
In addition, he said Aecer Flooring of Peshtigo supplied and installed the 29,000 square-foot wood floor for the National Training Center in Beijing, the exclusive training location for the Chinese national team.
Aecer is also installing the flooring for the Olympic badminton courts. The company is one of the largest producers of wood Performance Sports Floors in the United States.
In another sports note, Doyle said he met Yi Jianlian, the Milwaukee Bucks 2007 first round draft pick from the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA).
Doyle, a former basketball star at Madison’s West High School, said “China is going to see a lot of Milwaukee because of Yi. He’s really a very nice young man and he is excited about playing basketball in the NBA and Milwaukee.”
Doyle said the 6’11” Yi, who was picked sixth overall in the NBA draft by the Herb Kohl-owned Bucks will charm Wisconsin fans and open doors for Wisconsin businesses.
“People in China will be talking a lot about Milwaukee in coming years,” he said. “It’s hard to quantify, but people there love basketball and this will create a tremendous awareness of our state over there.”
On the continuing budget negotiations, Doyle said he appreciates the Assembly Republicans’ shift on K-12 education funding, and encouraged lawmakers to keep working to reach a full budget compromise.
“I think we’ve seen some significant movement,” Doyle said. “My view of this is it’s long past due to get this done. With a good hard five days of work this week, we can get this budget done, but it does mean people are going to have to compromise. It’s time now to make those compromises and get a budget in place. We are starting to see real consequences that are going to happen to the people of Wisconsin if a budget is not enacted.”
Doyle reiterated his opposition to doing a piecemeal budget as Assembly Republicans have proposed. The Assembly goes to the floor tomorrow to vote on bills for funding K-12 and shared revenue, and establishing levy limits.
“There is really no way just take out one part of the budget and pass a bill on it because eveyrthing fits together,” he said.