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Three from area going to China with governor

Three area residents will be joining Gov. Tim Pawlenty's trade mission to China. Willmar Schools Superintendent Kathy Leedom will be traveling with the education delegation. Myron Behm of the Behm Seed Co. in Atwater and James Duininck of Prinsco...

Three area residents will be joining Gov. Tim Pawlenty's trade mission to China.

Willmar Schools Superintendent Kathy Leedom will be traveling with the education delegation.

Myron Behm of the Behm Seed Co. in Atwater and James Duininck of Prinsco in Prinsburg will be part of the agriculture delegation.

A day of sightseeing to the Great Wall, the Forbidden city and Tiananmen Square will be followed by a non-stop series of meetings, tours and receptions during the seven-day trip.

The coordinator of the trip said in a recent e-mail that the trip will include 218 people and 93 events in four cities over six days -- "a feat never before accomplished by any state."

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Education

For the education delegation, the trip will include a visit to a K-12 public school in Beijing, informational sessions and networking opportunities.

In Shanghai, they will visit a high school, accompanied by the U.S. consul general.

They will attend meetings on protecting intellectual property rights and on educational visa issues. In Hong Kong, they will tour the University of Hong Kong and meet with university leaders.

"I just count it such a privilege to be going on a trip of this nature," Leedom said last week. "I anticipate we will learn a lot about what is happening in the Chinese public school system."

Leedom is taking along information about Willmar Public Schools and about Ridgewater College, all translated into Chinese.

During "matchmaking sessions" that have been scheduled, Leedom said, she hopes to build relationships with Chinese school officials.

"Personally, I think it would be great if we could arrange some type of exchange for Willmar in the future," she said.

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"As we think about world languages our students might need to be aware of in the future, Mandarin Chinese certainly comes to mind," she said. "A language exchange could be something to explore."

The trip is also "a top notch professional staff development opportunity for me as a school leader," Leedom said. She hopes to learn about the inner workings of Chinese schools and learn more about techniques they have found to be successful.

Agriculture

Members of the agriculture delegation will be visiting a dairy company, a Hormel processing plant, a soybean crushing plant for biodiesel, an agriculture and food trade show and the port of Shanghai.

Their trip will close with a Thanksgiving reception with Minnesota turkey, Duininck said.

"I'm very excited about the opportunity to learn more, to see if Minnesota can grow with China," he said.

Prinsco manufactures corrugated high-density plastic pipe used for agricultural drainage and storm sewer drainage.

On the trip, he hopes "to gain a better understanding of what's happening and the growth that's happening in China," he said. "I will be able to gain a better understanding of the need for crop production and drainage."

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Behm's company is a seed conditioning business involved in packaging soybean seed and food grade soybeans. He also exports non-genetically modified seed.

Behm will also be traveling as a representative of the Willmar/Kandiyohi County Economic Development Commission. In that role, he'll meet with officials to discuss renewable energy and biofuels.

The trip probably won't be of immediate benefit to his company, he said, but he expects to meet a lot of people, and the company will be on the list of Minnesota companies involved in the trip.

"You just never know," he said. "It may bring something to the table down the road for us."

Like Duininck, Behm said he's excited to be making the trip. "The fact of going over there is beneficial enough," he said.

China mission factoids

- More China residents have attended the University of Minnesota each year since 1914 than any other American school. Many U of M graduates will be contacted during the Minnesota trade mission.

- Minnesota's trade mission has 217 members, twice as many as most state missions to the country. It has four times more than a California one, headed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, visiting China at the same time.

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- Midwestern companies lose more jobs to the southeastern United States than to China.

- Seven students will provide daily reports on the trade mission on www.minnesota-china.com/education .

- China has potential of being a new investor in American companies, according to state Economic Development Commissioner Matt Kramer. "They have money."

- Minnesota buys $650 million in goods from China annually. The state's $273 million in sales to China are mostly computers and other electronics.

- China is the world's most populous country with an estimated 1,306,313,812 people.

Sources: Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Economic Development Commissioner Matt Kramer, CIA.

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