Oregon opens up to China's possibilities

By Chang Jun | Updated: 2017-09-10 00:51

Oregon opens up to China's possibilities

The Pacific Northwest state of Oregon is known for its diverse landscape of forests, mountains, farms and beaches. In recent years, the state has stepped up its efforts to lure international investment and tourists, including those from China, to help boost its economy. The St. Paul Rodeo on July 4, for example, is one of the tourist attractions the state offer to travelers from home and abroad. PHOTOS BY CHANG JUN / CHINA DAILY

The US Northwest state has many initiatives underway to expand its market presence and emerge from the shadow of neighbors California and Washington state, Chang Jun reports from Portland and Salem.

From the state Legislature to local business owners and residents in Oregon, the consensus is that China remains "critically important" to the state's economy.

Trade, culture and education, as Oregon Governor Kate Brown suggested in a recent interview with China Daily, are going to be the three pillars that the state pushes forward for more collaboration with its Chinese counterparts.

Steven White knows from first-hand experience that China's thriving consumer demand will drive overseas sales of Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods to new highs.

As the export regional sales manager at the Milwaukie, Oregon-based company that specializes in producing whole grains and baking mixes, White oversees the 40-year-old company's business outside of the US.

He monitors the company's only flagship store in China, which was launched last year on Tmall, the cross-border marketplace of China's e-commerce giant Alibaba.

Through its online store, Bob's Red Mill can access Alibaba's more than half billion clients and sell to the entire Chinese market.

Since inception of the e-store, "We saw a steady increase in the numbers of orders we receive from online," said White, adding that consumers cluster around big cities such as Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen and Guangzhou.

"Our natural, certified organic, and some gluten-free milled grain products, beans, seeds, nuts and dried fruits are popular," said White. "It has become a trend among the 300 million-strong Chinese middle class that they choose to live on a healthy lifestyle."

Like White, many small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Oregon are eager to learn about China and how to sell to the world's second-largest economy.

"We have too many state treasures, but too little has yet been known in China," said Jin Lan, president of the Oregon-China Sister State Relations Council (OCSSRC), an organization that has promoted Oregon and its natural resources, tourism attractions, tech and farm products to Chinese counterparts since the 1980s.

"Do you know that Oregon grows almost all the hazelnuts consumed in the US, and blueberries of the finest quality and texture in America?" Lan asked.

Indeed, Oregon didn't sufficiently promote its attributes, echoed Charlotte Christensen, a Portland resident who was a regular volunteer on the council since 2010 and now is a board member.

"We produce everything from computer chips to wines and apples," she said. "Our workforces are highly skillful, and companies like Intel, Nike, Columbia Sportswear and Adidas USA have all found great success in Oregon."

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