Commerce to make follow-up trip to India this year

Gov. Nikki Haley (left) speaks as Maharashtra Woman and Child Development Minister Pankaja Munde listens during an interactive session on Women in Leadership in India on Nov. 20. Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt says his agency is planning another trip to the Asian nation.

The state Department of Commerce is planning another trip to India to follow up with contacts made during Gov. Nikki Haley's November economic development mission, Secretary Bobby Hitt said Friday.

State officials will likely return to India in the third quarter. No details are yet available, including how many or who will participate.

The 10-day trip in November represented Haley's first visit to her parents' native country since she was a toddler.

Commerce spent $51,500 on the 10-day economic development trip that Haley led one week after her re-election win. Commerce paid expenses for Haley, her spokesman, an adviser in her office and four Commerce employees.

No job announcements have yet come from the trip. Hitt said recruiting foreign companies takes time, and 15 potential projects are in the works. The trip's success can be measured in the long list of contacts developed, Hitt said.

"We've spent the last month following up with companies we met with," he said. "The name of the game for us is to build leads and develop those leads like any courtship. ... If you want to recruit companies from overseas, you have to go see them."

Delegation members participated in more than 120 meetings and events with businessmen, diplomats or university officials, up from 90 initially planned. Haley participated in 52 of those, Hitt said.

The media attention that Haley, who was born and raised in rural Bamberg, attracted in her parents' home country helped generate the additional meetings, Hitt said.

Delegation members split their time between seven cities in six states. Haley traveled to New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, and in Punjab, Chandigarh and Amritsar.

Airfare, hotel, meals and other expenses for the seven state employees covered by Commerce totaled $32,300. The agency spent $19,200 on marketing materials.

The 18-member delegation also included Haley's husband and representatives of businesses interested in exporting to India. Hitt has said Michael Haley paid for his own airfare.

A breakdown the agency provided Friday did not include taxpayer-funded costs incurred by the director of the state's tourism agency or Haley's security detail.

Of the seven employees Commerce paid for, their individual expenses ranged from $4,050 for Haley adviser Katherine Veldran to nearly $5,700 incurred by Ford Graham, Commerce's director of international investment, who's based in South Carolina's European office in Munich, Germany. It was unclear why Graham's expenses were $640 more than anyone else on the list.

The agency did not immediately respond to questions about the breakdown. Haley's taxpayer-funded expenses tallied $4,100.