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Idaho governor to lead trade mission to Peru, Mexico

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Gov. Butch Otter is leading a group of Idaho business leaders on a weeklong trade mission to Peru and Mexico the week of May 11.

The trip includes businesses that produce milk, potatoes, boat docks, and skin care products that are aiming to increase exports to Central and South America.

The business leaders will attend receptions with U.S. Ambassador to Peru Brian A. Nichols May 12 and U.S. Ambassador E. Anthony Wayne to Mexico May 14.

Laura Johnson from the Department of Agriculture, which is partnering with the Department of Commerce on the trip, said businesses often make connections faster when they travel with a high-ranking government official.

“It opens the door to higher-level officials, and that really is key,” Johnson said.

Brian Jeppsen, who works for the eastern Idaho-based Hess Pumice, said his company already does a little business with South America, but wants to do more.

“We thought that it would be a good venue not only to open up trade for us, but also to rub shoulders with other business owners from Idaho that have the same objectives,” he said.

Companies cover all their own travel fees for the trip, as well as hotels, interpreters and ground transportation. They also pay an additional $2,200 registration fee to cover renting meeting room space and the receptions with ambassadors.

That money is supplemented by roughly $35,000 in federal grants from the U.S. Small Business Administration, which covers about half of the trip’s costs.

General fund dollars are used for staff travel. Three staff members from the state’s Department of Commerce, three staff members from the Department of Agriculture and two state police officers for security plan to accompany Otter.

Gov. John Evans led the state’s first trade mission to Beijing and Hong Kong in 1981.  Otter most recently led a trip to Moscow and St. Petersburg in Russia in 2013. He’s also led missions to Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Cuba, South Korea, Russia, Taiwan, the United Kingdom and Vietnam.

“He’s been all over the world selling stuff and building plants,” said Otter spokesman Jon Hanian. “He speaks the lingo. It’s the relationships that you build and cultivate on these trips that really pay dividends.”

Otter is scheduled to return to Idaho in time for the Legislature’s special session on May 18, when lawmakers hope to remedy the state’s noncompliance on child support rules.

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