Christine Gregoire Reflects on Her Accomplishments as Governor of Washington
“Chinese companies will find it easy do business in Washington with the dedicated support of local and state government.”
~Christine Gregoire, outgoing governor of the state of Washington
Christine Gregoire served as Washington State’s 22nd governor from 2005 through 2012. Born Christine O’Grady, she was raised in Auburn, Washington by her mother, who worked as a short-order cook to support the family. She rode horses, picked blueberries and learned the value of hard work and a good education.
After graduating from Auburn High School, she entered the University of Washington. She graduated with a teaching certificate and Bachelor of Arts degree in speech and sociology. She met her husband, Mike Gregoire, in September 1971 when they both worked for the Washington Department of Social and Health Services. She received her law degree in 1977 from Gonzaga University.
Chris and Mike Gregoire have two daughters, Courtney and Michelle, whose achievements are both equally distinguished. Courtney is married to Scott Lindsay, and is an attorney who has served in the administrations of two US presidents and currently works at Microsoft. Michelle currently attends law school.
Governor Gregoire describes herself as striving to deliver real results to the people of Washington. She combines effective leadership with a tireless work ethic. As she leaves office, she takes time to reflect on her many accomplishments. In this article, she talks about Washington’s trade relationship with China.
Q: Governor Gregoire, please share some highlights of what you’ve done to build trade between Washington and China during your term in office.
A: Washington has a distinguished history of trade and cultural exchange with China and I am proud to have had the opportunity to maintain and enrich those ties. During my term in office I’ve worked on a number of projects and initiatives that have not only helped to strengthen our existing relationships in China but also to build new ones.
Chief among those is the Washington Export Initiative, launched in 2010 to increase the number of Washington state companies exporting by 30 percent and help 5,000 Washington businesses achieve $600 million in new export sales.
As a prime US gateway to Asia, opportunities for Washington companies in China and the entire region are a focus. During a 2010 trade mission, we met with many Washington companies that have success stories in China, including some in clean energy and information communication technology. We participated in a number of meetings and signed MOU agreements to further education, research, trade and investment, particularly in agriculture, biomedical and life sciences.
We participated in a Washington Day at the World Expo in Shanghai and showcased our tourism opportunities. More than $10 million in sales is attributed to that 2010 trade mission. That number is expected to grow as business opportunities seeded on that trip come to fruition.
I had the opportunity to return again for the National Governor’s Association last year, where I led the dialogue between US governors and the leaders from China’s provinces.
While these individual missions help promote trade between Washington and China, our efforts are also supported by the ongoing work of our Departments of Commerce and Agriculture, and the countless efforts of other organizations and friends of the State who have made Washington’s valued relationship with China what it is today.
Q: Where do you predict these efforts will lead?
A: Washington companies such as Starbucks, Microsoft, Boeing and Almond Roca are already household names across China. We believe that our efforts will continue to expand this list.
Companies like PopCap, a creator of games for mobile devices, have had tremendous success in the Chinese market and their story began with one of our earlier trade missions. Companies like Impinj, an RFID manufacturer, used Washington State Department of Commerce services for their distributor search. That assistance led to rapid sales growth and helped them establish of a growing sales force in the market.
On the 2010 mission, Demand Energy, a global provider of distributed energy systems, met and followed up with Chinese partners to plan for installation of their systems in China. These are just a few examples of how our efforts have led to successes in China and we have many more to come.
Q: What is the China trade potential for technology products and services?
A: Current policies in China stress innovation to help lead development. Washington companies can benefit from this demand if they adopt a prudent approach. Our companies are innovation leaders, especially those involved in information technology, clean energy technology, and life sciences.
Washington companies like Enprecis, a provider of feedback analysis tools in the automotive industry, have used Federal STEP (State Trade and Export Promotion) grant funding to take advantage of our China Accelerator program for a low-risk entry to the Chinese market. Over the past year, they’ve been able to secure deals and pilot programs with major Chinese automotive companies and are now planning to further expand their current operations.
There are many success stories like these, but the key is developing an effective China strategy to deal with concerns such as intellectual property rights and local protectionism. Our state government works closely with federal officials and with our companies to assist in this process.
Q: What advice might you give to those in China about conducting business successfully with Washington State?
A: I would encourage Chinese business leaders to look to our state as one of the leading centers for entrepreneurship and innovation in the US. We also have had a number of Chinese companies, ranging from Mindray and adSage to iSoftStone, that have chosen to invest in Washington and take advantage of our talented workforce and forward-looking businesses environment.
We also have a thriving overseas Chinese community and can provide numerous connections for our friends in China who want to establish a presence or conduct business in our state.
Chinese companies will find it easy do business here with the dedicated support of local and state government. If Chinese companies or entrepreneurs are looking to do business in the US, the State’s Department of Commerce can provide them with the tools they need to succeed. Washington also has offices in China to facilitate trade and exchange between Chinese and Washington State companies, and the people in those offices can provide advice about doing business successfully here.