S.C. Statehouse Report
Jan. 4, 2004
VIEW: http://www.statehousereport.com/columns/04.0104.queensland.htm


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Sister state relationship pays dividends
By Andy Brack
SC Statehouse Report

JAN. 4, 2004 - - Try to think of a Southern state that has about 4 million people and has a patriotic, self-reliant people with a good work ethic who love economic development.

South Carolina? Well, yes and no. It's also the Palmetto State's sister state - - Queensland in Australia.

The state's leader, Premier Peter Beattie, recently sent a list of key points that highlighted the value of the growing business, educational and cultural relationship between South Carolina and Queensland. In mid-2003, he made his fifth visit here in about as many years.

"Governor Sanford and I renewed the commitment to the Sister State Agreement and especially decided to focus on business opportunities for companies in South Carolina and Queensland, and perhaps joint ventures into South East Asia," Beattie wrote.

Although Queensland literally is on the other side of the world, it makes good sense to be her partner. Why? Because the states are compatible and salivate at economic development opportunities.

"We're the same kind of folks," said former Parks, Recreation and Tourism Director John Durst, an honorary ambassador for Queensland. "When you get people of good will together, you can make good things happen - - and people of South Carolina and Queensland are people of good will."



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Among the similarities:

Trade. Both states have major ports that move a lot of cargo. They also are aggressive in pursuing trade opportunities.

Tourism. Both states have major tourism industries. People throughout Asia visit the Great Barrier Reef, the rain forest and other natural wonders. And much like we lure vacationers to the Grand Strand, Queensland's Gold Coast is a vacationer's Mecca. Currently, the states have a hospitality and tourism educational exchange between their state universities.

Technology. Queensland is making a name for itself as a world leader in biotechnology and life sciences research - - the same kind of research and entrepreneurial spirit that revolves around the Medical University of South Carolina. A biotech forum is planned between the states this year. Also with the University of South Carolina's budding research effort into nanotechnology (making very small technical products), some kind of partnership with Queensland's 40,000 information technology workers makes sense.

Agriculture and aquaculture. Both states continue to rely on agricultural, forestry and fisheries industries as major economic components. With major research stations for maritime and agriculture research located in Charleston, opportunities abound for Queensland.

Language. With the Asian market picking up a huge head of steam in the future, there's a natural fit brought on by culture and the similar languages in the two states. It's not hard to envision how Queensland could be a business and export platform for S.C. and U.S. businesses in the Asian market and how S.C. could be a U.S. base of operations for Queensland businesses that want access to the rich U.S. and European markets.

The relationship between the two states didn't just come about, said Rob Whiddon, chief of staff to Premier Beattie in Queensland. It started when Queensland came to South Carolina in 1996 to study how South Carolina became a launching pad for some of the foreign Olympic teams before they took part in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Queensland wanted to do the same - - and it did with South Carolina's help - - for the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Since then, the states have become closer, with Australia providing koalas to Columbia's Riverbanks Zoo, one of the only places in the U.S. to view the species.

Business between the states is budding. For example, Ballandean Estate Wines of Queensland now uses South Carolina as its import base into the East coast. U.S. sales now account for 15 percent of the company's total sales. Later this year, several Queensland companies are expected to seek letters of introduction from Beattie's government to get help for business opportunities here.

Now the states can continue to spur new relationships and ideas to promote mutual business and other opportunities in China, Whiddon said.

"The future is just enormous," he said in a telephone interview. "China needs the sort of expertise that Australia and the U.S. can provide. There are great things we can do in the Asian region."

Bottom line: More jobs are in the offing for South Carolina and Queensland if we continue to nurture the sister state relationship.

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