Business consultant Gene Gerke will be one of 51 Columbia residents flying to China on Thursday, and his primary objective has more to do with breaking into the market than scaling the Great Wall.
“I want to see how things operate there,” Gerke said.
Gerke said his firm has done some management consulting with Chinese companies in the past, but as the country continues to grow, Gerke wants to learn more. His increased interest in China makes sense; the world’s most populous country recently surpassed Japan as the world’s second largest economy.
The nine-day sightseeing and business trip is sponsored by the Columbia Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber began marketing the trips to China last year, when 28 members and guests traveled to the Asian country.
Chamber Executive Vice President Kristi Ray, the trip coordinator, said the goal is to get members more accustomed to Chinese culture. The trips are guided by Citslinc, a California-based company that specializes in business trips to China.
The Chamber decided to start marketing trips to China after attending a national chamber conference and learning that roughly 500 chambers sponsor such trips and take about 20,000 members to the country each year.
The trip will include visits to the top six tourist spots as well as to a silk factory, a jade factory, an economic development zone and the Shanghai World Expo, which features exhibits from countries all over the world.
Those taking the trip represent a wide range of businesses, from real estate to publishing.
Dwight Browne, interim director of University of Missouri Press, said, “The Chamber’s China excursion is an opportunity to expand the Press’s print and e-book sales through mutual translation and distribution agreements with Chinese publishers while experiencing a unique culture.”
The University of Missouri Press publishes scholarly books in a wide range of areas including history, African-American studies, women’s studies, journalism, literary criticism, political science and regional studies of the American heartland.
Ray and Citslinc have also organized several one-on-one meetings between Columbia business people and their counterparts in China.
Gerke said he also hopes to visit a business acquaintance in the software development field while there but added that the trip isn’t just about business: “It’s a cool thing to do.”