Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner is wrapping up his administration's first international trade mission with a visit to a Chinese university, where he said he's encouraging students to study, visit and build companies in Illinois.
Rauner spent the first part of his eight-day trip at the Midwest-Japan Conference in Japan, where he said he and eight other Midwest governors met with executives of several companies as well as with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
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Before returning home Sunday, Rauner is visiting Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China. He says the university, which focuses on engineering and technology, is interested in forming a joint venture with the University of Illinois. The Republican former businessman also visited Shanghai, where he met with the city's vice chairman and with officials from six companies.
"It is important to know that Japanese and Chinese companies are growing fast," Rauner said via telephone from China late Friday. "They are expanding around the world and it is important that we are selling Illinois and encouraging them to come here. We are also encouraging them to come here as tourists."
Rauner spoke often during his 2014 campaign about the need to travel and recruit more companies to Illinois to grow the state's economy. But he's done little recruiting during his more than two years in office.
He said that's because his time was mostly consumed with passing a state budget deal and ensuring schools were funded. In July, lawmakers voted to override Rauner's veto of a budget agreement, ending a more than two-year stalemate. Lawmakers passed school-funding legislation in August.
"I didn't want to travel while those issues were unresolved," he said. "I now will focus on economic growth and development.