International delegates visit La Crosse to talk about economic growth

International business is a multibillion dollar industry in the U.S.

International business is a multibillion dollar industry for the United States. In February alone, imports and exports totaled more than $35 million.

To encourage more business across borders, representatives from 28 different counties visited La Crosse Tuesday.

For the third year in a row, international delegates have been invited to the U.S. to learn more about economic development and innovations. It’s part of the Americas Competitiveness Exchange, also known as ACE.          

This year, the tour stopped in La Crosse because organizers say it has a lot to show for its small size.

The six-day tour started in Minnesota and will eventually end in Chicago Illinois, but organizers said they couldn’t travel through Wisconsin without stopping in La Crosse.

“La Crosse represents an excellent model for them to look at as they think about dynamics of their own countries,” said Matt Erskine, deputy secretary of the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

La Crosse is not considered a big city with a population of about 50,000 people but just because it’s a small city doesn’t mean it isn’t doing big things.

“I was impressed yesterday that we go to the chillers factory to see in a small place like this a very big company, an international company, that makes the biggest chillers in the world so that is something we can learn in Mexico,” said Ivan Torres, a representative from Mexico.

Along with innovation and economic growth, the international delegates are also learning about prosperity.

“It’s important that you have an environment and space you can work in but also live in and play in and raise children in,” said Steve Carlyon, director of parks and recreation in La Crosse.

With La Crosse’s unique location between the Mississippi River and the bluffs, city officials have been able to make La Crosse a destination for families.

“In the U.S. parks play an interesting role in economic development by attracting people to the community,” said Carlyon.

One example is when the city chose to remodel and restore Grandad Bluff.

“Previous to the renovation projects we would harvest these machines and we would get around $1,200 dollars a year in quarters. We currently get about $2,400 a month in quarters so a lot more people are coming here,” said Carlyon.

Although Grandad Bluff is the delegates’ last stop in La Crosse before moving on, Torres said the information and relationships he has built in La Crosse will head back home with him to Mexico.

“The whole trip is about exchange of experiences, so we believe that when we start to exchange, what do we do, we can grow,” said Torres.

By the end of the tour, the 28 international delegates will have talked to and built relationships with 40 different businesses throughout Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois.

The trip is funded by multiple different government agencies hoping to expand international business across the Americas.