- Associated Press - Saturday, May 9, 2015

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - Nearly a year after Gov. Maggie Hassan’s controversial trade mission to Turkey with representatives from seven New Hampshire businesses, there are few tangible results such as new sales, contracts or distribution deals. But when it comes to international trade, officials say it’s too early to see any deals inked and that the weeklong trip last June launched new relationships that are likely to prove beneficial down the line.

“It doesn’t happen overnight,” said Tina Kasim, international program manner in the state’s Office of International Commerce.

With international trade, she said, most new partnerships can take between 18 months and five years to develop.

Andrew White is an owner of Comptus, a business that sells wind and environmental sensors. White purchased the company in 2012 and said the state’s available resources have helped him expand internationally. He now sells directly to 17 countries.

“It’s kind of a cool thing that (the state) is saying ‘Hey, we can help you get out there (and) open your door to the world,’” he said.

Hassan, a Democrat, faced stiff political backlash for the trip, which came less than a month after she declared an out-of-state travel ban in response to an anticipated budget shortfall. The state’s $15,000 tab for the trip had already been budgeted and paid for, and the seven businesses that sent representatives paid their own way. The state last went on trade trips to India and Canada in 2011, and officials are planning a trip to Colombia in October. Hassan is not planning to join.

The New Hampshire Republican Party still thinks the trip was a waste of money.

“There was no good reason for Gov. Hassan to spend scarce tax dollars on this junket, and the lack of any real economic benefits that resulted from this trip proves it,” chairwoman Jennifer Horn said in a statement.

A spokesman for Hassan said the trip helped connect New Hampshire with 200 businesses in Turkey.

“The governor’s trade mission was about building long-term relationships with businesses that have the potential to help build on our existing international trade efforts with Turkey, spurring economic growth and creating jobs here in New Hampshire,” spokesman William Hinkle said.

Turkey is New Hampshire’s 12th largest trading partner, worth more than $79 million in exports in 2013. That compares with the state’s No. 1 trade partner, Canada, with a 2013 export value of $1.26 billion.

The Turkey trip included more than 100 matchmaking meetings for businesses in Istanbul and Ankara, Hassan’s office said. The current state budget included roughly $30,000 for out-of-state travel in the Office of International Commerce, which is part of the Division of Resources and Economic Development. Her proposal for the next state budget includes $42,000 over two years for the office’s out-of-state travel, but lawmakers are still writing a final budget so that amount could change.

Although no deals have been inked yet, business representatives who joined the trip say they’re seeing the benefits.

White, the owner of Comptus, joined the trade mission so he could learn about the Turkish market and connect with other New Hampshire businesses. He learned Turkey is looking to overhaul some of its efficiency regulations in 2016, which will open up the market for his product.

“I can step back and say: ‘OK, I’m not missing the boat in that market. It’s something that’s a definite potential opportunity and here are my contacts in the country,’” he said.

Suzan Lehmann is a lawyer with Hinckley Allen with a focus on international commerce. She went on the trip to make connections that could be beneficial if her clients want to expand to Turkey, and to meet Turkish businesses that might need consulting in the United States. Lehmann said she’s stayed in touch with two Turkish companies that may start doing business here.

Lehman said she wouldn’t have had the same access to business leaders in Turkey without help from the state.

“They were fantastic about matchmaking,” she said. “When we got there, I had very meaningful appointments and introductions arranged for me.”


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