The Washington Times - November 17, 2011, 01:53PM

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, currently on an 11-day trip to Israel and India, said Thursday that he expects to have several agreements signed with India-based companies that want to either invest or expand their operations in the state within the next 60 days.

“This is a very important mission for us, because India is the largest democracy in the world,” Mr. McDonnell said on a conference call with reporters. “The opportunity for the consumer market over here and the agricultural market over here are significant.”

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Mr. McDonnell and the Virginia delegation, currently in Bangladore, has met with major business leaders, as well as several major businesses that already have offices in Virginia, such as Essel Propack, a manufacturer based in Danville.

“I’m delighted to say we’ve had meetings with the very highest [levels] of people,” he said. “We are very excited about what we’ve been able to accomplish so far”

On Saturday, he travels to New Delhi, where the state will open a new agricultural office on Monday. Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore said that he’s met with wood product, soybean, apple and wine importers in the hopes of increasing Virginia’s exports of those items.

When asked about Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley’s much-touted trip to India at the end of the month, Mr. McDonnell said that “there is plenty of business for everybody to have,” noting that Virginia’s delegation is much leaner, at around a dozen people. Mr. O’Malley will lead over 100 state business leaders, educators and elected officials on an economic-development trip to the country starting Nov. 28.

“There are so many opportunities here that I’m not worried about that competition,” said Mr. McDonnell.

But there has certainly been recent economic development competition between the neighbors across the Potomac. Virginia recently lured 625 jobs away from the Frederick, Md.-based Bechtel Corporation, and is reportedly trying to entice the Bethesda-based defense contractor Lockheed Martin to move as well. Last year, the Commonwealth won a high-stakes bidding war that also included D.C. to get defense giant Northrop Grumman to move its corporate headquarters from Los Angeles to Falls Church.

Mr. McDonnell earlier in the week also announced two new marketing representatives that the state will have in India.

The state has hired Kavan Bhandry of Sparta Strategy to represent Virginia in Dubai, and Srinath Rao, to be based in Bangalore. Bhandry has over 10 years of outward foreign investment consulting experience with major international contracts in Belgium and several other world markets, and Rao has over 20 years of international business development experience working with international firms.

Earlier on the trip, Mr. McDonnell became the first American Governor to meet with the Manufacturers’ Association of Israel, which is akin to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Mr. McDonnell said on a conference call earlier this week that he hopes to make some announcements on Israeli businesses expanding in Virginia in the next two months.