This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 8, 2011 - Former U.S. Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-Mo., is continuing his focus on international trade -- and prospects in Asia, in particular -- with a new consulting firm that plans on "helping American companies expand their markets overseas and create jobs here at home."
Bond made his announcement in Clayton this morning at the region's World Trade Center, where various officials and executives portrayed the senator's new venture -- Kit Bond Strategies (to be known as KBS, for short) -- as part of a broader effort that they predicted will lead to more international trade.
Such optimism came despite the acknowledged disappointment among some, including Bond, over the General Assembly's failure twice this year to approve state tax incentives aimed at encouraging freight-forwarders to promote Lambert-St. Louis International Airport as a destination for international cargo -- notably, China.
Bond downplayed his role in encouraging China to locate a cargo hub at Lambert but emphasized that he supported the concept, regardless of what happens with the incentives. The general theme at the KBS kickoff was that Asia represents one of Missouri's best hopes -- and also for the United States -- for economic gains.
"The growth in Asia as an export market cannot be overlooked,'' said Tom Nowak, the World Trade Center's executive director.
What Bond's new firm, among others, can do, he continued, is faciliate the communications and strategic advice needed to close the deals.
Bond said his firm -- which will be managed by longtime former aide Jason Van Eaton -- will lead business representatives to Indonesia in January to encourage and seek out trade opportunities. Bond and Van Eaton have both made a number of trips to Asia in recent years.
"We go out like a sales team,'' said Van Eaton, who also has been a major player in the China hub effort. "People in Indonesia tell us exactly what they are looking for,'' and KBS will try to match them up with American businesses.
Added Bond: "The one thing about Asia, you have to be there to close a sale."
KBS will have offices in Kansas City, Columbia, St. Louis and Washington, D.C. Bond plans to shuttle primarily between Washington and St. Louis, where he will maintain residences. (He said he expects to move into a new home in Ladue in January.)
Aside from U.S. grains, many Asian countries also are interested in American high-tech equipment, Van Eaton said.
Mike Jones, chairman of the region's China Hub Commission, said he was disturbed by the three consecutive cancellations of Chinese cargo flights to Lambert. He agreed, in part, with the official explanation that the Chinese see a softening in U.S. markets for their goods -- leading to a general reduction in all Chinese cargo flights.
But Jones added that he believed the Chinese also are concerned about the General Assembly's apparent lack of interest in encouraging such trade via Lambert. Jones repeated his earlier observation that "we did not do ourselves any favors over the last six to eight months."
At the same time, Jones and Bond -- both sports fanatics -- repeatedly used sports analogies to emphasize that they remain committed to seeking out international trade as a way to boost the region's economy,
Bond observed that "I would have liked the Cards to close in five games'' to win the World Series, but that he was thrilled by their comebacks in Games 6 and 7. The same is true, he continued, of the continued work by his firm and others to encourage international trade, particularly with Asia, despite a few political roadblocks at home.
Jones added that he believed that, by one key measure, great achievement already has been reached. "The China effort is already a success,'' he explained. "We have changed the focus of economic development in this state."