Snyder's China trip won't be cheap
Lansing –— Gov. Rick Snyder's upcoming fourth annual trip to China to coax the economic powerhouse's companies to expand in Michigan won't be cheap, but economic development officials say the money is well spent and producing results.
The governor's 2013 investment mission to China and Japan cost $251,000 and a concurrent trade trip totaled $173,000, according to the Michigan Economic Development Corp. Expenses included international flights for the governor, staff, lodging, in-country travel, meals, gifts and receptions.
Nearly $219,000 of the bill for Snyder's trip was covered with MEDC "corporate" funds — the $62 million a year the state receives from American Indian casinos' gambling profits.
The remaining $31,000 came from the Michigan Economic Development Foundation, a tax-exempt nonprofit whose donors last year included the Detroit Three automakers, Dow Chemical, Whirlpool, Blue Cross Blue Shield and others. The foundation, which received about $500,000 in donations in 2012, helped pay for travel and gifts in Asia along with receptions where guests were served alcohol — expenses that officials prefer not to cover with public money.
Snyder's weeklong trip starts Wednesday and goes through Nov. 26. While he's there, the state will lead a concurrent trade mission with nine Michigan companies hoping to ship their products to China, Michigan's third-largest export market.
The business delegation will join several of Snyder's events, but the trip is considered separate. Of the $173,000 spent on a similar MEDC trade mission to China and Japan that overlapped with Snyder's 2013 trip, the federal government paid $101,000 and participating Michigan businesses spent $50,000.
The MEDC covered the remaining $22,000.
Jennifer LeFevre, executive director of the foundation that helps pay for a portion of governors' investment missions, said donor companies "feel that when Michigan does well, they do well. If Gov. Snyder or Gov. (Jennifer) Granholm or Gov. (John) Engler or whoever the governor is is going out and bringing back business, then it's more business for them."
The foundation was started in the early 1980s under former Gov. James Blanchard, she said, to pay for things "the state couldn't, didn't want to pay for necessarily, but needed to pay for. You don't want to pay for a reception out of state general funds."
The China visit is Snyder's seventh overseas investment trip in four years, not including shorter treks to Canada and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley's visits to Brazil, Mexico and the Netherlands. Granholm led 12 overseas trade missions in eight years; Snyder appears to be on pace to log more miles.
China is his top destination.
He took his first overseas trade trip as governor there and to two other Asian countries in 2011. Engler had been the last Michigan governor to visit China 11 years prior. Granholm visited Japan and South Korea during investment trips but not China.
Snyder has said Chinese companies' recent decisions to expand in Michigan are a direct result of his missions, and each time he goes he meets with more important government and business executives.
He cites H.A. Automotive Systems' plan to invest nearly $29 million and create 368 jobs at a North American headquarters, manufacturing and research facility in Troy. The lighting supplier to the auto industry is a subsidiary of Shanghai Changhui Industry Development and will receive $2.2 million in incentives from Michigan.
YanFeng USA Automotive Trim Systems plans to invest up to $56 million and create 519 jobs by expanding a factory in Macomb County's Harrison Township.
State officials also are focused on selling "Pure Michigan" as a destination for Chinese tourists.
In July, Snyder said investments missions give him the chance "to tell Michigan's comeback story around the globe. International companies are now considering Michigan as a prime location for their United States investments and that shows how far we have come."