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China trip yields business possibilities for Wichita

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012, at 11:46 p.m.
  • Updated Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012, at 7:43 a.m.

The Chinese are on the fast track to building a general aviation system, and they’re buying everything: planes, parts, training, mechanics, airport construction technology and expertise.

That’s why a delegation from Wichita spent almost two weeks in China in late October pitching what the Air Capital is selling.

Mayor Carl Brewer, Vice Mayor Janet Miller, state Sen. Carolyn McGinn and Karyn Page, president of Kansas Global Trade Services, led a 14-member delegation to Beijing, Zhengzhou, Kaifeng, Xi’an, Wuxi and Shanghai from Oct. 12 to 24.

The visit initially included meetings with Beijing Superior and Beijing government officials, who were partnering on a bid to buy Hawker Beechcraft. Those visits were canceled when the deal fell through.

Late this week, city officials reported $19,432 in expenses for six people — Brewer, Miller, police security and the city’s Sister Cities delegation: Marty Miller of Botanica, Thom Rosenberg and his wife, Adrienne. Kaifeng is a sister city for Wichita.

City officials say the trip yielded an “unbelievable collection” of business possibilities that potentially could help revitalize Wichita’s general aviation sector.

“China doesn’t have general aviation for the most part,” Miller said. “Their general aviation is ag spraying and that’s about it.”

China’s air space is not open, Miller said. However, a plan to open it began in 2011 and will be complete in 2015. That’s when the Chinese intend to have their general aviation operation up and running.

“They don’t have business jets flying around for business,” Miller said. “They don’t have Chinese citizens flying around. They have no Jabara airports, very few planes, no pilots, no training, no maintenance, no fixed based operations.

“And guess what? Those are all things we do.”

The Chinese are ready to buy, Page said. And they have the cash to do it.

So the trip’s goal, officials said, was information gathering and face-to-face meetings with the Chinese, to develop a strategic plan to cast Wichita as the Air Capital to the Chinese.

Business/Trade and Sister Cities Delegation Travel Expenses

NameAirlinePer diemVisaLuggageHotel,Tour, translatorsGiftsCommunicationsReimburseTotal
Mayor Brewer$1,843$1,263$145$360$3,611
Vice Mayor Miller$1,843$1,263$145$360($1,263)$2,348
Lt. K Vaughn$1,843$1,263$145$134$360$3,745
Sister Cities Delegation Travel Expenses
Marty Miller$1,873$707$145$1,500($1,700)$2,525
Thom Rosenberg$1,873$0$0$1,500$3,373
Adrienne Rosenberg$1,873$0$0$1,500$3,373
General Expenses
City delegation combined$308$150$458
Totals $11,148 $4,496 $580 $134 $5,580 $308 $150 ($2,963) $19,432

Those face-to-face meetings were important, Brewer said. The Chinese don’t do business with people they haven’t met. Once Americans earn the designation “my friend,” business can be done.

“We met a lot of individuals at the highest levels, and we were able to learn in detail what their needs are in the aviation industry,” Brewer said. “We were able to go through various areas of the country and sit down and talk with them, and that’s what made this trip so good.”

“There’s no substitute for face-to-face meetings with the Chinese,” Page said. “We’ve got to go over there, shake their hands, meet with them and build relationships with them on a regular basis.”

The trip’s immediate goal is to move quickly — as money permits — to mobilize the city’s general aviation manufacturers and subcontractors to get a Wichita presence established in China, Page said. Steps include:

• A management exchange program where Kansas Global would place a staff member with one of the city’s partners in China and would receive a staff member from China in the Wichita office.

• Develop a Wichita-China Aviation Advisory Council.

• Increase the number of China business/trade mission trips to two to four a year.

• Host Chinese delegations visiting the U.S. in Wichita.

• Develop the “Air Capital of the World” brand in key spots in China.

• Open Wichita-China offices in strategically selected Chinese cities.

The goal is to capture “first mover” status as China’s first major American business partner for general aviation, Page said. That’s because the Chinese want to fly now, Brewer said.

“We talked to this one mayor who wants our planes already,” Brewer said, chuckling. “I told him, ‘We have a nice selection of used planes here for him to see.’ That wasn’t what he wanted. ‘No, no. I want new.’

“Well, we’ve got a nice selection of those, too.”

Reach Bill Wilson at 316-268-6290 or bwilson@wichitaeagle.com.

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