The publicity in India surrounding S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley’s 10-day trade mission in November led to additional meetings with potential business prospects, the state’s Commerce Department chief said Friday.
The 18-member delegation of business and government officials had 90 meetings scheduled but ended up conducting about 120, S.C. Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt said.
The trip cost state taxpayers $51,503, Hitt said.
Haley’s visit attracted heavy attention from media in the world’s second-most populous country because the governor is the daughter of Indian immigrants. She visited political leaders and shrines holy to her parents’ Sikh faith during the trip.
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Haley also took part in 52 meetings with business-related prospects, Hitt said. Fifteen of those meetings resulted in prospects that are currently in the Commerce Department’s pipeline for projects in the state.
“It snowballed once we got there,” Hitt said.
No economic-development projects in South Carolina that resulted from the trip have been announced. Commerce officials plan to travel again to India later this year for follow-up meetings.
Landing foreign businesses takes time, Hitt said. “This will be the beginning of a long journey.”
India is South Carolina’s 16th-largest trading partner. The mission targeted businesses tied to autos, aerospace, pharmaceuticals and agriculture.
The delegation included officials from the state commerce and tourism agencies, representatives of local economic development councils and First Gentleman Michael Haley, who paid his own way.
The trip cost the Commerce Department $51,503. That covered flight and hotel costs for Haley, two staff members from her office and four members of the Commerce Department as well as $19,209 in marketing materials, according to documents released Friday.
The trade mission’s costs for S.C. Department of Parks Recreation and Tourism director Duane Parrish, who also went to India, were not released.
The trip also included, for the first time, executives from seven private businesses, who also paid their own way.
Five of those executives and businesses donated $24,475 combined to Haley’s re-election campaign. One of the business travelers, Bhavna Vasudeva, was a member of Haley’s re-election fundraising team.
Hitt, who was appointed by Haley, said the governor’s office did not dictate who to invite on the mission. Companies applied to the Commerce Department’s international trade office to join the Indian trip, the agency has said.
Hitt said having the private business representatives on the trip allowed the state to reach more business prospects and do a better job in selling South Carolina.
“If you went over there with all government people, you would not give them the impression of who you really were as business state,” he said. “You want a diversity of all types of people. You only get one first impression.”