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Dusty Johnson, Gov. Dennis Daugaard's chief of staff, speaks to about 20 people at an event hosted by the Mitchell Area Chamber of Commerce on Monday at Blarney’s Sports Bar and Grill in Mitchell. (Chris Mueller/Republic)

Official: China trip helping South Dakota businesses

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Gov. Dennis Daugaard is on a weeklong trade mission to China, and one of his top officials said Monday the trip will foster opportunities for South Dakota's businesses.

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Dusty Johnson, the governor's chief of staff, said Daugaard's latest trip to China, which will last through Friday, is meant to help facilitate deals between businesses in South Dakota and China, the world's most populous country.

Johnson spoke to a group of nearly 20 people at an event hosted by the Mitchell Area Chamber of Commerce on Monday at Blarney's Sports Bar and Grill in Mitchell.

Daugaard is being accompanied on the trip by a number of other state officials and business leaders, including a representative from Muth Electric in Mitchell. Johnson said Daugaard's presence on the trip gives the state's businesses greater access to businesses in China.

"Government officials there are a much bigger deal than business officials," Johnson said. "It's hard to get in the door if you're a business official, but when you bring a governor, it opens up doors."

This is Daugaard's third trip to China in three years. Johnson noted that after the trip last year, Millenium Recycling, of Sioux Falls, sold $1 million worth of waste paper to a company in China for recycling.

"There are a lot of those sorts of deals that happen because South Dakota businesses have been able to get in the door in a way they were not able to before," he said.

Johnson said in 2005, South Dakota's exports to China exceeded those of North Dakota by about 50 percent. And though North Dakota now exports more to China than South Dakota, Johnson said the state still values the business it does with China and will continue to focus on growing the relationship.

The governor's office has reported the trip will cost the state approximately $93,000.

Voter education

With the June 3 primary election approaching, Johnson said Monday voters should educate themselves on the issues before heading to the polls.

Johnson said he is often asked simply to encourage people to vote, but would actually prefer only informed voters to cast ballots.

"If you don't have a clue, I'm really fine with you staying home," he said. "There are voters who really care and have really done research, and they're out there trying to make a decision."

Daugaard, a Republican, is being challenged in the upcoming election by fellow Republican Lora Hubbel, a former one-term state representative. Democratic candidates for governor, Rep. Susan Wismer, of Britton, and Joe Lowe, of Piedmont, will also face off in a primary. Michael Myers, a former CEO of Mayo-St. Mary's Hospital in Rochester, is running for governor as an independent.

Johnson said it's often easiest to become an informed voter by finding opportunities to speak directly to the candidates. That's especially true in a state like South Dakota, Johnson said, where candidates are often more accessible than in more populous states.

"I don't think there is any substitute for that," he said.

Johnson also encouraged voters to become involved in either of the major political parties.

"I just feel like if you're a member of a party, either of the large ones, then I think you're at the table when they're trying to decide what the party stands for," he said. "I think you're able to have a louder voice in the governance of a state and a party when you're a participant."

According to the South Dakota Secretary of State's Office, there are are 236,097 registered Republicans, 175,298 registered Democrats and 82,960 registered independents in South Dakota.

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