Sukup attends Governor’s trade mission to China
SHEFFIELD, Iowa -- China’s huge population, fast-growing middle class and growing appetite for meat make its relationship with one of America’s leading food-producing states a strategic priority.
For the state of Iowa and its leading companies, a strong relationship with China makes great business sense.
So there was much to celebrate on a recent trade mission that marked the 30-year anniversary of the sister-state relationship between Iowa and the Chinese province of Hebei.
The April 12-18 trade mission led by Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad included Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia, as well as Sukup Manufacturing Co. President Charles Sukup and representatives of several Iowa businesses, associations and educational institutions. They visited Beijing, Tianjin, Baoding City and Shijiazhuang.
The focus of the trade mission was to promote Iowa’s global partnership with China, especially in the areas of expanded trade and direct investment in Iowa. The trip included meetings with current and potential buyers of Iowa exports.
“It is no secret that this sister state relationship has been very beneficial to the people of Iowa and we look forward to more success in the future with this unique partnership,” Branstad said in a news release on the trip. Branstad signed the original agreement in 1983 establishing the sister state relationship between Iowa and Hebei province.
“International trade is extremely important to the people of Iowa as it supports tens of thousands of jobs right here in our state,” said Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds. “China is an important trading partner with Iowa, importing $3.2 billion worth of goods last year.”
Based on the amount of corn he saw piled on the ground in China, it appears there is potential for grain bin sales, Sukup said, adding that with the fast-growing middle-class and greater appetite among the Chinese for meat, there is a growing need for grain-handling and storage equipment.
While the country of 1.37 billion people has tried to remain very self-sufficient, there is a growing reliance on imports, Sukup said, which presents more opportunity for Iowa businesses in particular. Seventy percent of the soybeans China uses are imported, with half coming from the United States.
The trade mission included a meeting between Gov. Branstad and China’s new president, Xi Jinping, who visited Iowa last year and in 1985 while on a trade mission. The 1985 trip included a tour of Sukup Manufacturing Co. and tea at the home of Steve and Vicki Sukup. Steve Sukup is chief financial officer of Sukup Manufacturing.
“In our meetings with Chinese companies it was quite an attention-getter to say that the current president of China had toured our plant many years ago,” Charles Sukup said.
The outpouring of generosity and gifts was heartwarming, he said. During the sister state banquet, he reunited with several people who visited Sukup Manufacturing with Xi in 1985. They presented Sukup with a hardcover picture book commemorating that visit, and with an ornate scroll showing the Great Wall of China. “They were warm and friendly and excited to talk about their visit to Sheffield nearly 30 years ago. They even saw me off at the hotel when it was time to leave,” Sukup said.
He said he was impressed by how modern China has become and how fast it is progressing. When company founder Eugene Sukup and his wife, Mary, visited in 1984, the tallest building was about six stories, but the country now hosts some of the tallest in the world.
Many of the building names and signs in Beijing were in English, and many of the people – who were very friendly and open – spoke English, Charles Sukup said.
Others on the trade mission included representatives of the Iowa Economic Development Authority, Iowa Corn Growers Association and Iowa Corn Promotion Board, Iowa Farm Bureau, Iowa Soybean Association, ADM, Cargill, DuPont Pioneer, John Deere, Monsanto, Pella Corp., University of Northern Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Iowa.
Sukup said the trip included a visit to the Great Wall of China and to the Forbidden City, and to a Chinese automobile manufacturing plant.
Overall, the trade mission produced and/or enhanced many contacts with leaders of companies and organizations involved in international trade, and showed there will be increased opportunities in China for companies interested in selling products there, Sukup said.
Sukup Manufacturing Co. is a family-owned business that has been providing top-quality products to agricultural producers since 1963.
Sukup is the fastest-growing bin manufacturer in the world. Its product line includes farm and commercial grain bins, portable and tower dryers, centrifugal and axial fans and heaters, stirring machines, bin unloading equipment and bin floors and supports.
Sukup also makes a line of material handling equipment that includes bucket elevators, drag conveyors and chain loop conveyors, and custom-designed ag and commercial buildings under the name Sukup Steel Buildings. Sukup products are sold throughout the U.S. and Canada, and are in more than 70 other countries.