PHOENIX – Saying the country represents far more to Arizona than customer support call centers, Gov. Jan Brewer hopes to increase the state's trading with India.
Just back from a week-long stint there, Brewer told Capitol Media Services on Thursday she had the opportunity to meet with not just national and state officials but also those in the business community, “people with the financial ability to come to Arizona and invest.”
That, she said, translates to jobs.
“And they're not looking for incentives,” the governor said, an issue that has become a sore point over questions of whether Arizona is effectively paying companies to move here. “They are financially fairly sound.”
Some of that, she said, involves solar manufacturing. But Brewer said she also got queries about raw materials.
“They're very interested in the potash,” Brewer said, a chemical compound used in everything from manufacturing to agriculture.
“We've got three different areas in northeastern Arizona,” the governor explained. “And they have none, so they import a lot of it.”
Sandra Watson, executive director of the Arizona Commerce Authority, said those potash mines – and the 2.5 billion tons estimated to sit in the Holbrook area – are still under development. Watson, who went with Brewer on the trade mission, said having a firm interest in buying what Arizona can produce should help provide the financing to fully develop those sites.
Brewer said there's also interest in solar manufacturing.
Watson said demand for renewable energy products is growing in India at the rate of 15 percent a year. And that, she said, is a demand that firms there cannot currently meet.
“It gives us an opportunity find ways in which to have companies in Arizona partner with companies there,” Watson said.
She also said there are opportunities for Arizona's aerospace companies in India, citing predictions by Boeing Corp. that country will be looking to buy $130 billion in new planes by 2030.
Arizona already exports $81 million worth of products to India, based on 2012 numbers. That makes India one of the state's Top 25 trading partners.
But that is eclipsed by the $167 million in goods from that country purchased here.
Brewer said there's another opportunity: tourism.
The governor Brewer acknowledged the large areas of the country with abject poverty. But she said there's a whole other component to the population.
“There's a wealthy population in India, amazingly wealthy,” she said. “And they like to travel.”
One issue she confronted with inquiries about travel from India mimics what has been a problem for Arizona tourism promotion now for years: People think the Grand Canyon is in Nevada. And so they fly in and out of Las Vegas.
The governor said that can be helped with the particular interest in package tours, with prearranged destinations. She said that will help get people to visit Arizona not only for the canyon but for the mountains – and particularly the snow in winter – the lakes, the Saguaro National Forest and even Meteor Crater.
And Brewer said she found a surprising number of Indians who are interested in astronomy and are interested in going to the Globe area for stargazing.
At the same time, Brewer said she was met with requests to promote India as a destination for Arizonans.
Brewer said she was a bit surprised at the number of people who came to various events to meet with her or hear the pitch she and state commerce officials are making. But the governor, who has been on other international trade missions, said this one proved equally fruitful in opening doors.
“It's no different than going to Germany or going to France,” she said. “It's people working together for the benefit of both countries involved.”
Brewer said she believes she had a leg up of sorts in being able to connect with people by traveling with Ram Krishna, an orthopedic surgeon from Yuma who was born in India and got his medical degree from Bangalore University. Krishna also is one of the most recent appointments the governor made to the state Board of Regents.
“He got access (for) us to people that normally people wouldn't have an audience with,” she said, like Siddaramaiah, the chief minister for the state of Karnataka, and his cabinet. And Brewer said she also got to speak with about 80 members of the Confederation of Indian Industry.