MUSCATINE — Iowa’s newest chamber of commerce has a potentially large interest group — 1.35 billion people in China and 3.1 million Iowans.
The Chinese Chamber of Commerce in Iowa, located in Ankeny, opened Tuesday during a celebration that included Muscatine’s Sarah Lande, Ambassador Kenneth Quinn of the World Food Prize and Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey.
Since Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s visit to Muscatine and Des Moines in 2012, “Iowa has become very famous in China,” said Dr. Lang Dang, president of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Iowa.
Along with an increasing number of Chinese visitors to Iowa has come more investment, including a company called Iowa Food Manufacture Ltd., which he said will begin producing tofu out of a Des Moines plant.
“We feel this is a good time to start a professional non-profit organization focused on introducing Iowa to China and Chinese people to Iowa to have more understanding and to create more opportunities on both sides,” Lang wrote in an email. “We have several good projects in progress already and have a strong feeling and demand from both sides to create a good platform to make things happen more effectively.”
The Des Moines-area office has a staff of three, with another 20 people working at a sister office in Beijing. More than 300 Chinese companies are members, he said.
Some of Iowa’s smaller businesses “need a channel and bridge to connect with China,” he said. “CCCI will be working as a bridge and build the necessary channels.”
Among the Chinese chamber's immediate plans:
- Introduce the Farm Progress Show to China.
- Help spur Chinese investment in Iowa.
- Make Iowa “a more attractive destination for visitors using all the great resources we have here,” including the places that Xi has visited, the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, Iowa’s covered bridges and “beautiful farms, landscape, and so on,” according to Lang. In fact, the chamber hopes to add value to Iowa’s landmarks. It’s floating ideas such as creating a tofu museum.
- Coming off this week’s China Week celebration, the chamber wants to introduce “unique Iowa cultures” to China as part of the 2014 China Week celebration.
Asked to name the chamber’s accomplishments to date, Lang mentioned the China Week art exhibit at the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates in Des Moines, an exhibit scheduled to travel to Muscatine, he said. Another, he said, is the purchase of the Muscatine home where Xi stayed in 1985 when he first traveled to Iowa, a home formerly owned by Thomas and Eleanor Dvorchak. The purchase, Lang said, will make the home “more accessible to visitors.”
In the months to come, “we’ll definitely get more Chinese traders and buyers to have more access to Iowa products by understanding Iowa more,” he said. “We’ll help to create business, cultural, educational and other opportunities for Chinese people to ‘addict’ to Iowa.”
He said he also hopes to facilitate a tour so that Iowa and Chinese writers “can tour Iowa and write about their experiences.”
“Many more people are willing to come and visit and want to know more about Iowa regarding education opportunities as well as investment activities,” he said. “We want to integrate the resources we have here in Iowa with what we have in China to have an amplified effect in making things happen.”