Yuma Doctor Escorts Governor to Hometown in India

2013-09-07 16:20:42

Dr. Ram Krishna said he is “still glowing with the honor” of escorting Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer around his hometown of Bangalore, India.

The Yuma orthopedic surgeon was born in that nation and earned his medical degree from Bangalore University.

Krishna also is a recent governor appointee to the state Board of Regents.

“It’s not every day you get to take the governor to your hometown,” Krishna told the Yuma Sun. “It was superb, a great experience. The governor had never been to India.”

He accompanied Brewer and other state officials to India Aug. 19-27.

Officials honored her with all the ceremonial pomp of a state visit, such as giving her a police escort, stopping traffic and addressing her as “Her Excellency.”

“She never thought she would be so well-received,” Krishna noted.

Brewer believes she had a leg up of sorts in being able to connect with people by traveling with Krishna, who paid for his own expenses.

“He got access (for) us to people that normally people wouldn’t have an audience with,” she said, such as Siddaramaiah, the chief minister for the state of Karnataka, and his cabinet.

And Brewer said she also got to speak with about 80 members of the Confederation of Indian Industry.

Saying the country represents far more to Arizona than customer support call centers, Brewer hopes to increase the state’s trading with India.

Brewer said she was a bit surprised at the number of people who came to various events to meet with her or hear the pitch she and state commerce officials are making. Some events drew several hundreds of attendees, Krishna noted.

But the governor, who has been on other international trade missions, said this one proved equally fruitful in opening doors.

“It’s no different than going to Germany or going to France,” she said. “It’s people working together for the benefit of both countries involved.”

Brewer told Capitol Media Services she had the opportunity to meet with not just national and state officials but also those in the business community, “people with the financial ability to come to Arizona and invest.”

That, she said, translates to jobs.

“And they’re not looking for incentives,” the governor said, an issue that has become a sore point over questions of whether Arizona is effectively paying companies to move here. “They are financially fairly sound.”

Some of that, she said, involves solar manufacturing. But Brewer said she also got queries about raw materials.

“They’re very interested in the potash,” Brewer said, a chemical compound used in everything from manufacturing to agriculture.

“We’ve got three different areas in northeastern Arizona. And they have none, so they import a lot of it,” the governor explained.

“We have millions and millions of dollars worth of potash sitting idly in Northern Arizona and they’re offering to buy it from us,” Krishna added. “Now they buy it from Russia and Canada because they have no choice, but if they can buy it from us, they will.”

Sandra Watson, executive director of the Arizona Commerce Authority, said those potash mines — and the 2.5 billion tons estimated to sit in the Holbrook area — are still under development.

Watson, who went with Brewer on the trade mission, said having a firm interest in buying what Arizona can produce should help provide the financing to fully develop those sites.

Brewer said there’s also interest in solar manufacturing.

Watson said demand for renewable energy products is growing in India at the rate of 15 percent a year. And that, she said, is a demand that firms there cannot currently meet.

“It gives us an opportunity find ways in which to have companies in Arizona partner with companies there,” Watson said.

She also said there are opportunities for Arizona’s aerospace companies in India, citing predictions by Boeing Corp. that country will be looking to buy $130 billion in new planes by 2030.

Arizona already exports $81 million worth of products to India, based on 2012 numbers. That makes India one of the state’s Top 25 trading partners.

But that is eclipsed by the $167 million in goods from that country purchased here.

Brewer said there’s another opportunity: tourism.

The governor acknowledged the large areas of the country with abject poverty. But she said there’s a whole other component to the population.

“There’s a wealthy population in India, amazingly wealthy,” she said. “And they like to travel.”

One issue she confronted with inquiries about travel from India mimics what has been a problem for Arizona tourism promotion now for years: People think the Grand Canyon is in Nevada. And so they fly in and out of Las Vegas.

The governor said that can be helped with the particular interest in package tours, with prearranged destinations. She said that will help get people to visit Arizona not only for the canyon but for the mountains — and particularly the snow in winter — the lakes, the Saguaro National Forest and even Meteor Crater.

And Brewer said she found a surprising number of Indians who are interested in astronomy and are interested in going to the Globe area for stargazing.

At the same time, Brewer said she was met with requests to promote India as a destination for Arizonans.

Ironically, due to the tight schedule, Brewer had only a brief opportunity to be a tourist herself. Krishna took her to see the famed Taj Mahal in Agra.

But she had plenty of opportunities to savor Indian cuisine, which “she loved,” according to Krishna.

“It was a good experience, an honor to go with the governor. I would do it again. And if it could improve the economy in Arizona, even better,” Krishna said.