Several Nebraskans recently returned from a trade mission to China, including Gage County’s economic development leader.

Walker Zulkoski, executive director of the NGage economic development group, went on the trade mission with Gov. Pete Ricketts and other Nebraskans.

The group visited several businesses, but Zulkoski said a highlight was seeing where one of Beatrice’s businesses hails from.

Worldlawn Power Equipment bought Encore Manufacturing five years ago, and Zulkoski visited the Beatrice manufacturer’s parent company on the trip.

“The main reason we wanted to make sure we got to Worldlawn headquarters was to say thank you,” Zulkoski said. “(Business retention and expansions) are really important to maintaining your employers… It looked well for our community and looked well for the state. It was awesome to get over there and say thank you and make sure they know we got their back here.”

Zulkoski visited the company’s headquarters in Danyang, Jiangsu during the trip.

Worldlawn moved its operation from California to Beatrice, a move that ultimately brought jobs to Gage County. The company kept the Encore name but incorporated Worldlawn’s brand into it.

JiangSu World Group, Worldlawn’s parent company, purchased the local business Encore Manufacturing in March 2011 and moved Worldlawn to Beatrice. At the time of purchase Encore employed two full-time workers and five part –time employees and its manufacturing had stalled.

Today, Worldlawn has grown in the area and recently purchased a 274,000-square-foot facility in north Beatrice, formerly used by Husqvarna, to house an expansion.

“As they were kind of putting together the schedule, Worldlawn, with the building acquisition, we wanted to make sure we were on their radar and we said thank you for purchasing the building,” Zulkoski said. “Hopefully it continues to spur their investment in Beatrice.”

Ultimately, he said the trip was about building relationships, which he felt was accomplished.

“My main thing is that’s it’s an awesome company,” he said. “Maybe Beatrice people were leery to say ‘Who is this Chinese company that bought encore?’ I don’t know if people knew the capacity that these folks have. Being over there, I think everyone’s minds were blown how big and well run of a company it is.

“It’s important for us to be at the table and important to put Beatrice on the map when you can go on trade mission like that and play a significant role in it.”

Reach Scott Koperski at scott.koperski@beatricedailysun.com. Follow him on Twitter @ScottKoperski.

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