Over the past few weeks, the Chamber of Commerce of St. Joseph County has been involved in a couple of lower-profile efforts that could still pay dividends for the region down the road.
China. Speakers included Lionel Jensen, professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Notre Dame, who discussed the current and short-term outlook for doing business in the Chinese marketplace.
Youqing Ma, foreign commercial service officer with the U.S. Department of Commerce, outlined some of the help offered by the government, and Alan Brown, vice president of Lebermuth Co. in Mishawaka, discussed his company's business involvement in China.
The Chamber of Commerce of St. Joseph County, the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce and the Goshen Chamber of Commerce actually are planning a nine-day trip to China in April to visit various cultural and historic sites. At the same time, business and government leaders will make themselves available to discuss business opportunities in China for those who are interested.
About 80 people are signed up to go on the trip, says Paul Laskowski, executive vice president of the Chamber. Many are going purely to learn about the ancient civilization, but perhaps a third also want to gain some understanding of the business opportunities in China, he says.
Laskowski says the World Trade Council seminar, the trip and other initiatives are meant to get businesses in the region interested in the possibility of doing business in China. Local companies might find new customers; they might be able to find new suppliers; they might be able to find new business partners.
Businesses interested in pursuing opportunities overseas should contact an economic development official. The North Central Indiana Small Business Development Center, for example, now has a staff member who is certified as an international trade specialist.
The quest to grow business overseas is vital to growing our local economy since it actually results in new money coming into our community.
The same can be said for an ongoing effort by Visit South Bend Mishawaka, the group charged with boosting visitor and tourism spending in St. Joseph County.
For the third consecutive year, Visit South Bend Mishawaka is offering assistance for groups or organizations that are planning events that could result in new visitors coming to the area.
The tourism organization has offered grants totaling $75,000 each of the past two years, but it has managed to boost the total to $100,000 for events planned in 2013, says Rob DeCleene, executive director of Visit South Bend Mishawaka. The money can be used to help defray the costs of marketing an event or even for facility rentals.
Baseball tournaments that were helped by Visit South Bend Mishawaka this past summer resulted in 3,000 room night rentals at area hotels, DeCleene says. Organizations that are being helped with the grants are seeing increased attendance and increased awareness across a broader demographic from outside the immediate area, he says.
"This amazing grant has helped the Fischoff Competition immensely with marketing efforts to our regional and national audience. The number of national visitors who come to South Bend to attend and participate in the Fischoff has grown as a direct result of this welcomed support," Ann Divine, executive director of Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, wrote in a news release.
Tourism and visitor spending results in $447 million in new money coming to St. Joseph County each year, according to the most recent estimates. That spending by visitors supports 6,238 full- and part-time jobs.
The purpose of the grant program is to help boost visitors when there isn't a Notre Dame football game. It's an effort worthy of support or taking advantage of if you're involved in an organization planning an event.
Applications are due by Jan. 18. To learn more, drop by the Visit South Bend Mishawaka office at 401 E. Colfax Ave., Suite 310, South Bend, or visitsouthbend.com/about-south-bend.
Ed Semmler's The Bottom Line column appears on Sundays. If you have a comment or suggestion, contact him at email@example.com or at 574-235-6466.