ANDERSON – With 19 foreign companies having a presence in Madison County, local business and community leaders were provided information on how to cultivate relationships for future growth.
The second annual Flagship International Symposium took place Tuesday at Ivy Tech Community College with an emphasis on building relationships.
Colin Renk, executive director of the America China Society of Indiana, said 30 Chinese companies are operating in Indiana.
“Acquisition is the biggest investment in Indiana,” he said. “Relationships are key when it comes to China.
“I expect more acquisitions and mergers in the next few years,” Renk said. “They want to start out small and grow the business.”
Exporting products to China is the biggest opportunity for Indiana companies, he said.
Renk said there was a 282 percent growth in exports from Indiana to China between 2010 and 2016 and last year sales totaled $2.9 billion.
He said the growing Chinese middle class uses predominately ecommerce to purchase products and that there is a huge demand for American and foreign-made goods.
“Singles Day, which is Nov. 11, last year saw $25 billion in products sold in a 24-hour period,” Renk said. “Any Indiana-based company can sell online.”
He said 507 million Chinese are using mobile devices on a monthly basis to shop on websites like Alibaba.
Renk said the challenge is that people in China don’t understand Indiana.
“They know California and New York,” he said. “They know Detroit because of the auto industry and Iowa because of corn.
“We have to market Indiana and Anderson as the best places to do business,” Renk said. “We have to tell the success stories of other companies in Indiana communities.”
When delegations from China visit Indiana, Renk said it’s important to provide them with entertainment as a way for the delegates to recall the trip to Indiana. He noted a recent delegation played basketball in Banker’s Life Fieldhouse.
In China, the government owns all the land and companies rent it, Renk said.
“They will buy land in Indiana and hope to develop it in the future,” Renk said.
Renk said Chinese companies want to be well received and welcomed in the communities where they locate.
Marina Waters, chief executive officer of LUNA Language Services, said companies wanting to do business with foreign businesses should develop a language access plan.
“We start internally with what are the language hurdles,” she said. “Many people coming to the United States can speak some English, but are not fluent enough to conduct business.”
Waters said Indiana's workforce is changing with a lot of people now speaking Spanish, which comprises 6 percent of the workers.
She said OSHA requires their regulations to be translated into other languages and placed in the workplace.
“People in management should learn simple phrases to be able to communicate with those workers,” Waters said. “An open door policy doesn’t mean a lot when you can’t say hello.”
She said people from other cultures only understand about 20 percent of what is being said in English and language should be localized to reflect influences and values.
Waters said communication includes body language, which can be more important to what is being said.