PHOENIX — Gov. Jan Brewer hopes to increase the state’s trade with India, saying the country represents far more to Arizona than customer-support call centers.
Just back from a weeklong visit there, Brewer said Thursday she had the opportunity to meet with national and state officials and business leaders, “people with the financial ability to come to Arizona and invest.”
That, she said, translates to jobs.
“And they’re not looking for incentives,” the governor said. “They are financially fairly sound.”
One such area is in solar manufacturing.
Brewer said she also got queries about raw materials.
“They’re very interested in the potash,” a chemical compound used in everything from manufacturing to agriculture. “We’ve got three different areas in northeastern Arizona” that produce it, Brewer said. “And they have none, so they import a lot of it.”
The Arizona potash mines — and the 2.5 billion tons estimated to sit in the Holbrook area — are still under development, said Sandra Watson, executive director of the Arizona Commerce Authority.
Watson, who went with Brewer on the trade mission, said having a firm interest in buying what Arizona can produce should help provide the financing to fully develop those sites.
Brewer said there’s also interest in solar manufacturing.
Watson said demand for renewable-energy products is growing in India at the rate of 15 percent a year. That is a demand that firms there cannot meet.
“It gives us an opportunity to find ways in which to have companies in Arizona partner with companies there,” Watson said.
She also said there are opportunities for Arizona’s aerospace companies, citing predictions by Boeing Corp. that India will be looking to buy $130 billion in new planes by 2030.
Arizona already exports $81 million worth of products to India, based on 2012 numbers. That makes India one of the state’s Top 25 trading partners.
But that is eclipsed by the $167 million in goods from that country purchased here.
Brewer said there’s another opportunity: tourism.
The governor acknowledged the large areas of the country with abject poverty. But she said there’s a whole other component to the population.
“There’s a wealthy population in India, amazingly wealthy,” she said. “And they like to travel.”
The governor said package tours with prearranged destinations will help get people to visit Arizona for the Grand Canyon, mountains with snow in winter, Saguaro National Park and Meteor Crater.
Brewer said she found a surprising number of Indians who are interested in astronomy and stargazing in Arizona.
At the same time, Brewer said she was met with requests to promote India as a destination for Arizonans.
She thinks it helped her to connect with people by traveling with Ram Krishna, an orthopedic surgeon from Yuma who was born in India and got his medical degree from Bangalore University. Krishna also is one of the most recent appointments the governor made to the state Board of Regents.
“He got access (for) us to people that normally people wouldn’t have an audience with,” she said, like Siddaramaiah, the chief minister for the state of Karnataka, and his cabinet. And Brewer said she also got to speak with about 80 members of the Confederation of Indian Industry.