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Corbett Trade Mission To South America: Junket Or Helpful?

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Don't call it a junket -- says Governor Tom Corbett -- the taxpayers are not paying the bill.

But Corbett is leading a 10-day trade mission nearly 5,000 miles south to Brazil and Chile.

"What I am selling also is our location in the country, with 60 percent of the population of North America within a long day's drive of Pennsylvania, our workforce -- the work ethic of our workforce -- and, finally and clearly, our low cost energy that is going to continue to grow with the development of the shale gas fields of Pennsylvania," Corbett said in a conference call from Brazil.

Corbett is trekking from Sao Paulo to Rio de Janeiro to Santiago -- and has already met with the vice governor of Sao Paulo, along with corporate executives from 20 Brazilian companies.

"If we would sit at home and just make phone calls, we aren't necessarily going to get any attention from the companies that are looking to invest somewhere in the world," noted the governor.

Daniel Coelho, a state legislator from Brazil, is visiting Pittsburgh -- and he said Brazil with 200 million people offers lots of opportunities.

"We are not that different from the United States. We are a very mixed culture country, and we also have a very modern economy that is growing fast, and I think we are open to business," noted Coelho.

And he said Pittsburgh's health care reputation is already attracting Brazilians.

"There is already a Brazilian community here doing treatment and receiving people, and this is an area that we could develop," he added.

But on the conference call from Brazil, KDKA money editor Jon Delano asked the governor if he could point to success stories for this area from his last trade mission to France and Germany.

"I'm drawing a blank at the moment," the governor responded. "We'll get you the ones. I just don't have the list in front of me."

Later that day, state officials said the governor's visit to Europe yielded 16 new leads with 10 active projects.

As for the cost of these trips, it's paid for by a business-supported group called Team Pennsylvania.

The governor says Pennsylvania is competing against other states -- and missions like this get this state into the pipeline.

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