Gov. Bev Perdue departs tomorrow for an Asian trade mission to China and Japan. It will be her second trip to China in 2 1/2 years.
The question this time, amid the economic realities, is whether the trip is worthwhile. Perdue said yes. "This is the most robust economy in the world right now. North Carolina has to have a relationship with them," she said recently. "So it sounds like a lot of money. I know its a lot of money. But the only way we can build this international trade alliance is through personal contacts."
The commerce department also suggested that Honda Jet's recent expansion to its Greensboro facility is credited to the governor's previous trip to China. "There are significant leads we are spending time on while we are in Asia," said commerce department spokesman Tim Crowley.
The state budgeted $40,000 for the trip with another $60,000 coming from the commerce department's nonprofit -- the North Carolina Commerce Trade and Development Fund.
Led by Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco, the nonprofit takes unlimited contributions from outside business interests, including some that lobby the governor and general assembly on legislation and policy. The commerce fund will pay for the receptions and gifts for foreign leaders, Crowley said.
According to its 2010 tax documents, the commerce fund spent $318,000 to court economic development, running a $64,000 one-year deficit when it's revenues didn't meet costs. Going into this year, the fund had $163,000 in assets.
The state's portion of the cost does not include money for a security detail, he added, which could cost about $20,000.
Perdue's husband and Crisco's wife will also travel to China but will pay their own way. The state bought the governor and secretary economy tickets on American Airlines and any upgrades are paid for from personal funds, Crowley said.
Invitations were sent for the sponsored receptions to a number of major businesses with recognizable names: Lenovo Group, Cisco Systems, Bank of America, SAS, Red Hat, Lowe's Home Improvement and dozens more.
The governor will return from the trip Oct. 26, meaning she will miss President Barack Obama's visit and the state Democratic Party's big annual fundraiser in Asheville.
The governor's office has not returned calls about how Perdue feels about an effort in Congress to impose higher tariffs on Chinese goods to counter the global competitor's devaluation of its currency. A number of prominent Democrats, including U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina, supported the legislation when it passed the Senate by a 63 to 35 vote earlier this week.