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The pearly gray octopus clung to the clear glass with all the might its suckers could muster as the restaurant attendant pried the creature from the bowl. She placed it in a simmering pot of broth in front of me, and I watched it quiver and become part of the soup. Five Seoul businessmen treated me to this delicacy as part of a traditional Korean lunch after a morning-long meeting. We left our shoes outside a screened room, and it seemed like a situation Doris Day might find herself in as I maneuvered carefully in my skirt to swing my legs under the low table. We spent hours enjoying tea, raw beef, sushi, ginger and honey, exotic fruits I am unable to identify, traditional red wine, and getting to know more about our mutual business interests and our unique cultural ways.

Last month, I was honored to join Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, Montana Department of Commerce Director Meg O’Leary, members of their staffs, and Montana business and education leaders on a trade mission to Taiwan and South Korea. The trip allowed participants to meet with governmental officials, non-governmental organization and trade promotion representatives in addition to existing and potential customers and investors. We received extremely warm welcomes wherever we went and, despite a packed schedule of official events and privately arranged business meetings, we were able to find time to enjoy a bit of local culture too.

The combined Taiwan and China market ranks as the third largest buyer of Montana export products, while South Korea holds the position as Montana’s second largest trading partner, just behind Canada. Montana’s total export market is $1.5 billion. Canada makes up nearly 30 percent of the total, while Korea makes up about 14 percent, and the combined Taiwan and China sales represents just over 10 percent of the total. While Canada has seen a decline of 5.5 percent over the last year, Korea has increased imports of Montana products by nearly 22 percent, and Taiwan has increased its imports of Montana products by more than 25 percent. These two markets represent the opportunity of tremendous growth for Montana exports. Last year, Gov. Bullock led a similar trade mission to Beijing.

Along with me, there were seven business delegates representing Montana’s leading export industries, including agriculture, manufacturing and technology. Additionally, the delegation included representatives from higher education and the tourism industry, whose mutual goals are to draw more foreign students, interest and visitors to Montana. Many Montanans viewed news coverage of the trip provided by KRTV/KXLH’s Tim McGonigal, who was also part of the delegation.

Prior to the trip, Gov. Bullock shared his vision of a mission that would build relationships between people interested in conducting business across the Pacific. Dr. Abraham Kim, director of the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center at the University of Montana and also part of the delegation, provided a cultural overview of doing business in Asia. Participants received briefs from entities such as the Montana World Trade Center about resources available to Montanans seeking to export to foreign markets

The costs of the trip, which were paid for by the business participants on their own, represent an investment in experiences, introductions and cultural connections that would be more challenging to accomplish without the leadership of Gov. Bullock and the expertise of his advisors and staff. The tight six-day schedule included receptions and events with the American Taiwan Institute, Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the American Chamber of Commerce, the Korean Importer’s Association and the U.S. Korean Embassy. Among the more formal highlights were introductions to Taiwan’s president, Ma Ying-jeou, and Memorandum of Understanding signings to promote trade with the Taiwan External Trade Development Council and the Korean Importer’s Association.

My goal for this trip was to learn more about the Taiwan and South Korean markets for Montana-grown organic products. As the North American regional director with Kamut International, a Montana-owned and operated company that manages the trademark for KAMUT® Brand khorasan wheat, I have received about one inquiry a week from South Korea since March of this year from potential customers wanting to purchase the grain for the Korean market. The governor’s trade mission offered an opportunity to learn first-hand about the interest coming from Korea. Previously, Kamut International had a small marketing project in Taiwan with what was formerly the Montana-Asia Pacific Trade Office in the Taipei World Trade Center, staffed by Mei Mei Wang. This trade office, opened in 1988, served to promote Montana trade with Taiwan. In 2012, then-Gov. Brian Schweitzer closed the office in an abrupt and controversial manner. The delegation was able to honor Ms. Wang, now a senior commercial specialist with the U.S. Commercial Services, for her years of service to Montana.

In addition to meeting with governmental officials, I was also able to meet with principals at a milling facility in Taiwan and with Kamut International’s exclusive partner in Korea. I was able to see the prominence of KAMUT® wheat on the shelves in a Seoul department store. My message was that Montana grows some of the best conventional and organic agricultural products in the world. Both Taiwan and Korea import grain with the U.S. being the first source for that grain. Both countries indicated that they desire premium, high quality, high-protein, hard red spring wheat for milling and food production. My message was well received. Representatives from both countries were especially interested in premium, organic agricultural products from Montana. Montana’s clean water and air lend Montana products an even higher level of perceived purity.  Montana, we need more organic farm acres, the demand exists.

Each of my business colleagues set up meetings on their own or with assistance from U.S. Commercial Services. These meetings were with existing customers or potential customers. Each of us met with success, not just solidifying relationships by securing trust and developing understanding but developing new projects. For example, Brad Reid with Diversified Plastics of Missoula learned that there is tremendous potential for DP’s industrial plastics in the wastewater treatment facilities in both countries. Adam Stern with Resonon out of Livingston secured at least two new distributors for his high-resolution spectral imaging equipment.

The delegation learned about more than just doing business on the trade mission. We also learned about the cultures of both countries. I do not think any of us will casually pass around business cards without thinking of the formal and careful way in which business cards are exchanged in Asia. It is customary to thoughtfully accept a business card using both hands and to look at the card, mindfully noting the name and position of the person presenting it. We enjoyed delicious food: dumplings, Korean barbeque, noodles, and coconut-tapioca soup. We visited shrines, monuments, and night markets, enjoyed pockets of green in the bustling cities, sang some Karaoke, and made new friendships

I would like to thank Gov. Bullock for the opportunity to learn more about two significant markets for Montana exports. The entire delegation demonstrated focused professionalism that will lead to new economic opportunities for Montanans.

The Montana Trade Mission delegation got off to a slow start from San Francisco after a “fuel gauge” issue at the gate that ended up extending from a few minutes to three hours. Thus, the thirteen and a half hour trip to Taipei ended up being more than sixteen hours. I took an Ambien about three hours into the trip and actually slept pretty well waking only during some turbulence over the Bering Sea.

The delegation made our way to the Grand Hyatt by way of a two bus motorcade with police escort. We arrived at the hotel to greeters, notes, food, and flowers. I found that I have a great view of Taipei 101, the iconic World Trade Center building that was the world’s tallest until 2010. It is now the tallest certified L.E.E.D (green) building. I got settled and took a quick walk down the street to get a little air and exercise before hitting the hay.

On Monday, the first event after breakfast was a briefing at the American Taiwan Institute, the US government office that provides an embassy-like presence in Taiwan. We were briefed on culture, trade statistics, and domestic politics. Taiwan has an aging population with a very low birth rate of 8.54 – compare worldwide rates here. While Taiwan is the #10 trading partner for the US, it is the #2 market for Taiwan. A new president will be elected in January 2016 – there has been some chaos with the party that is currently in office. It is expected that a woman, Tsai Ing-wen will be elected. http://thediplomat.com/2015/10/taiwans-ruling-party-ousts-its-presidential-candidate/

After the briefing, some of us moved on to other meetings, while others of us visited a peace park and the Chaing Kai-Shek Memorial. We regathered for a reception and lunch at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Minister and Governor Bullock made brief speeches and red-wine toasts and introduced their guests (the Montana business delegates and staff, and Taiwanese business people and Ministry staff). The lunch consisted of multiple courses of meat, soup, vegetables, coffee/tea, and a coconut-tapioca soup-like dessert. The Taiwanese12180824_10153637040734286_1836421349_o people we met were very kind and thoughtful and made for easy conversation. I learned that there is a great interest in organic Montana products.12177358_10153637040854286_1460852045_o

After the lunch, Lindsey Owens, trade delegate from Big Sky Resort, a12180824_10153637040734286_1836421349_ond I made our way by cab to the National Palace Museum to view jade, and ceramics, and bronzes, and calligraphy and books, and some beautiful Buddhas. While we anticipated busy traffic, it was not bad at all.

After freshening up and checking my Sunday emails, I rejoined the regathered group along with staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for an excursion to the 86th floor of Taipei 101. We then had world famous dumplings at Din Tai Fung, which the New York Times named one of the top 10 restaurants in the world in 1993 and currently ranks as 1 in the 101 Best Restaurants in Asia by the Daily Meal. It holds 1 Michelin Star and is very casual. The food was very good and there was a lot of it.12177443_10153637040919286_1847554801_o

By the end of the meal, I was full, and tired and ready for a good rest. Xie xie! (Thank you!).

The temperatures in Taipei for the next few days are expected to be highs in the 80’s, lows in the 70’s. Temperatures in Seoul are supposed to be more similar to home with highs in the 60’s and lows in the 40’s.

It has been a challenge to pack for this trip!

Several events including receptions with the Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, an introduction to Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou, a South Korean business briefing, and others, require “business formal.” Other events are casual, including a visit to Taipei’s night markets. I will visit some milling facilities where wearing a skirt and heels will be impractical. My usual Missoula attire is much more casual, tights, boots, knit skirts and dresses that in Montana is appropriate for nearly any occasion. To make matters a little more challenging, I have lost nearly 30 pounds since January; so, I have had to purchase more “business formal” clothing that includes jackets, skirts, and slacks. I’ve also packed beautiful dress that my mom bought me from my favorite Missoula store, Sotto Voce, for the Baltic Sea cruise I went on last summer. I’ve packed heels, flats, booties, and sneakers. I’ve decided to ditch boots because they aren’t practical in Taipei with it’s Florida-like weather.

I’ve packed, repacked, reconsidered, and finally have put together a wardrobe that will work for the varied temperatures and more formal nature of the trip. No (406) t-shirts, but I am bringing my Montana “Home” necklace, some agate jewelry from Sidney, Montana, and my Montana Yogo sapphire necklace.

And, I bring all my friends and family in my heart!

http://missoulian.com/news/state-and-regional/article_b111d591-bbe5-5347-8184-27c8b687a6f0.html

Mid-summer, I received a letter from Montana Governor Steve Bullock’s office inviting me to be a member of a trade mission delegation to Taiwan and South Korea. Receiving this letter was the equivalent of Cinderella receiving an invitation to the Prince’s ball. That is, I feel out of my element, but oh, so thrilled to be asked. My family rallied to provide the resources to make the trip a reality. And so, I have been preparing for the last ten weeks or so to go to Asia.

To connect a lot of dots in a fairly short amount of time, I’m going to Taipei and Seoul as part of an official Montana Trade Mission Delegation. South Korea is Montana’s second largest trading partner, while the combined Taiwan and China markets rank as the third largest buyers of Montana products. You can find an infographic here for trade stats  –montana trade stats This is the fourth such recent trade mission to foreign countries for Montana. https://governor.mt.gov/Newsroom/ArtMID/28487/ArticleID/1750

My goals for this trip are to use my anthropological and business skills to learn more about the Taiwan and South Korean markets for Montana grown organic products. Montana grows some of the best organic agricultural products in the world.

Today, I traveled to Helena with my childhood friend Brad Reid, President of Diversified Plastics, to attend an orientation meeting with the Governor, his staff, and others who are part of the trade mission. Governor Bullock shared his vision of a mission that will build relationships between people interested in conducting business across the Pacific. Dr. Abraham Kim, Director of the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center at the University of Montana (UM) provided a cultural overview of doing business in both Taiwan and South Korea. Luke Wallawander with the Montana World Trade Center shared with the us the resources that are available through that entity, also housed at UM. Sue Leferink provided some tips and suggestions for keeping our electronic equipment safe from a cybersecurity perspective, and Ronja Abel, Communications Director with the Montana Department of Commerce, provided a sketch of what to expect as far as photos, press releases, and social media.

I’m very pleased and honored to be part of the delegation and look forward to sharing my adventures.IMG_3672

Mid-summer, I received a letter from Governor Steve Bullock’s office inviting me to be a member of a trade delegation to Taiwan and South Korea. Receiving this letter was the equivalent of Cinderella receiving an invitation to the Prince’s ball. That is, I feel out of my element. However, my family, Kamut International, and state funding rallied to provide the resources to make the trip a reality. And so, I have been preparing for the last ten weeks to go to Asia.

To connect a lot of dots in a fairly short amount of time, I’m going to Taipei and Seoul as part of an official Montana Trade Delegation. South Korea is Montana’s second largest trading partner, while the combined Taiwan and China markets rank as the third largest buyers of Montana products. You can find an infographic here for trade stats  -montana trade stats This is the fourth such trade mission to foreign countries for Montana, and I will be one of only four women part of the delegation of seventeen. http://missoulian.com/news/state-and-regional/bullock-announces-trade-mission-to-south-korea-taiwan/article_e28241c2-d4f9-528b-b4e7-acbe93b40a80.html

My goal for this trip is learning more about the Taiwan and South Korean markets for organic ancient grains. My understanding is that breakfast cereal, Italian-style pasta, and American-style bread products are not desired products for Asian markets, although these are some of the more popular products for KAMUT(R) Brand khorasan wheat.  I hope my notions of cultural food norms are set on end. This summer while traveling in Europe, Clem and I noted the pervasiveness of Irish pubs and Mexican cantinas in St. Petersburg, Russia. So, who knows? Until you put your boots or high heels on the ground.

I’m currently trying to navigate bringing grain samples into both markets; apparently it involves “phytosanitary certificates” and $100+ for each country. I’m also trying to navigate an appropriate wardrobe… and, as a Missoula girl, I don’t wear heels very often…

Classic Montana is knowing where you call home. It means knowing your neighbors even when they are 45 miles down the road. It means knowing the great places to be in every little town. It means working hard, playing hard, and loving each and every minute of both. It means knowing that you are in one of the most beautiful, rugged, demanding, giving, places on earth and knowing that living and working here means giving up a lot. Giving up high wages for some of the lowest in the nation and also having to contend with a higher cost of living, greater transportation costs, isolation, limited opportunities, and still wanting to be here. 

 

Classic Montana is helping your friends and neighbors – it means acceptance, resilience, and service. 

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