Iowa View: An Iowa export worth celebrating

By Larry Zimpleman for the Des Moines Register | This column was originally published October 21, 2013

Larry Zimpleman
Larry Zimpleman

Today, Iowa celebrates a remarkable milestone: 30 years of friendship with our Sister State of Hebei, China. What an extraordinary accomplishment for an entirely volunteer, nonprofit effort dedicated to connecting Iowans with the world.

In fact, this citizen diplomacy may well be our state’s most valuable export. For more than 50 years, Iowa has been front and center in volunteer, people-to-people diplomacy through our long tradition of Sister State relationships. Sister State exchanges bring the world to our doorstep and have helped Iowa build deep and lasting friendships throughout the world, resulting in greater cooperation and trade.

That is why the Principal Financial Group is honored to participate in this anniversary celebration. We’re especially proud to welcome some 180 distinguished guests from Hebei province to our global headquarters. This visit not only celebrates past achievements, but serves as an important opportunity to expose Iowa’s global competitiveness in financial services, agriculture, manufacturing, bioscience and renewable energy to a whole new generation.

The Hebei delegation will have the opportunity to meet with representatives of Iowa industry and see firsthand all Iowa has to offer. Government officials and company executives will be signing cooperative agreements in the areas of trade, agriculture, tourism and education. The total value of trade and investment transactions is expected to be more than $1 billion.

The Iowa-Hebei Sister State relationship has been particularly successful in helping Iowa’s leading agricultural, manufacturing and financial services industries forge relationships and expand business throughout China. Exports to China have increased 13 times over the past decade, making China Iowa’s fourth-largest export market. And services exports continue to grow.

This impressive increase in business, and corresponding jobs for Iowans, stems from the simple gesture of taking time to get to know one another. Extending the hand of friendship is what Iowa does best.

For those reasons and more, the Principal Financial Group is honored to call Iowa home. As a global pension and investment leader, we consider our Iowa heritage and location a distinct advantage. Iowa is where we developed our expertise for helping individuals, businesses and institutions build retirement and long-term savings, invest to grow assets and insure and manage their lifetime income. We’ve been exporting our knowledge and experience to markets in Latin America and Asia for more than two decades to help establish long-term savings and retirement systems for the burgeoning middle class there.

Our joint venture operationin China, CCB Principal Asset Management, is symbolic of the positive impact possible when companies — and countries — work together to achieve mutual success. Sharing our experiences allows both parties to translate success to other markets. And we’re currently working together toward helping the people in China build a secure retirement future. That’s good for middle-class families in China. That’s good for the Principal. And it’s good for Iowa.

The world is a big place made smaller when we build relationships. Citizen diplomacy at its best.

We congratulate the Iowa-Hebei Sister State committee for 30 years of care and dedication and look forward to many more years of success. The relationships you’ve helped establish will benefit Iowans and China for decades to come.

Larry Zimpleman is chairman, president and CEO of Principal Financial Group.

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