Rockford Area Economic Development Council Signs First of its Kind Partnership Agreement With South Korean Group, Korea Trade-Investment Agency

September 4, 2013, ROCKFORD, ILLINOIS  --  The Rockford Area Economic Development Council (RAEDC) and the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) signed a global partnership agreement today, establishing the first formal opportunity for companies in the Rockford area to be matched with qualified business development partners in South Korea.

In attendance for the signing ceremony were the:
* Republic of Korea Ambassador to the United States Ahn Ho-Young
* Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency Director General Kang Youngsoo
* Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI) President & CEO Donald Manzullo
* RAEDC President Don Thayer

Significance of Global Partnership Agreement

* Rockford Region companies will have more and better access to business opportunities with South Korean companies. The agreement will also increase opportunities for foreign direct investment in the Rockford region by South Korean companies. South Korea is one of the wealthiest nations in the world and has the twelfth largest economy, according to the Korea Economic Institute of America,

* Rockford Region companies will incur minimal risk and investment and be matched with qualified South Korean partner companies. RAEDC and KOTRA will provide the resources and research for the matchmaking.

* The collaboration will provide more opportunities for both Rockford Region and South Korean aerospace companies. Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), in partnership with Lockheed Martin, is bidding on the U.S. Air Force T-X next-generation trainer jet program, which would lead KAI to grow its U.S. supply chain. Also, the South Korean government is seeking competitive bids for its FX-III and KFX fighter jets.

Remarks by Partners

Korean Ambassador Ahn said in strong terms that he was confident the Memorandum of Understanding between the RAEDC and KOTRA would be implemented after today's signing. "I've observed this country for 35 years after joining the foreign service. People in the United States are creative, enterprising and innovative," he said, referencing Thomas Edison, the Wright Brothers and Andrew Carnegie as well as new models of business such as Facebook, Google and Amazon. "We in Korea are equally enterprising," he noted. He said that while Google invented the Android system, the Korean company Samsung has the largest market share of Androids. "This is another example of perfect interface between what you have in the U.S. and what we have in Korea," he added. The ambassador also encouraged the partners to think about other possibilities, such as services, investment and more exchanges of professionals between the two countries.

KEI President & CEO Don Manzullo emphasized that KEI's mission is to promote dialogue and relationships between the Republic of Korea and the United States. With this being the 60th anniversary of the alliance between the two countries, President Manzullo discussed how South Korea has evolved noting "that no other country has come from abject poverty to become the twelfth largest economic power in the world." He continued on to state how South Korea, once a recipient of foreign aid is now a donor. Referring to Thomas Friedman's term of high-imagination-enabling countries (HIEs) that deal with ideas and innovation, President Manzullo stated that South Korea and the U.S., with its creativity, will continue to move forward. While total U.S. exports to Korea decreased by 3 percent in 2012, President Manzullo pointed out that exports from Illinois increased by 17 percent. Thus, reiterating that this MOU, KOTRA's first with a non-profit entity, will succeed.

RAEDC President Don Thayer said, "KOTRA is a leading trade & investment agency, with a strong track record for creating value for companies across the globe. We are honored to call KOTRA our partner, and look forward to aligning our international development strategies around aerospace, and other key industries. With President Manzullo's support and KOTRA's partnership, together we will continue to drive trade and investment opportunities to the Rockford Region as we grow our brand as Mid-America's best mid-sized international region."

KOTRA's Director General Kang said, "In Rockford, we have been in contact with five companies, and in the process, your region has become a familiar and friendly place for Korean business communities. For this we thank the devotion and efforts of President Manzullo and the RAEDC."

Background of RAEDC's Global Partner Search Program

On April 30, 2013 the RAEDC introduced its Global Partner Search Program (GPS) to help local companies identify qualified global partners and grow their international businesses. The first global partner was the City of Lidköping, which has an Industrial Partnership Agreement with the City of Rockford. The first local company to sign up for the program was Midwest Aero Support.

Midwest Aero Support President Brent Johnson said, "For a small company like ours, it would be very costly to place representatives in all corners of the world. With RAEDC performing the research and matching companies to us based on our completed questionnaire, it allows us to focus on what we do well, repair components and seats for aircraft and manufacture electronic aircraft components."

To Participate in Global Partner Search Program

Companies interested in finding qualified potential global partners to grow their businesses can contact Carrie Zethmayr at 815.979.4263, or visit


The primary role of the Rockford Area Economic Development Council is to enhance wealth creation in the Rockford Region by marketing the area and helping employers retain and create quality jobs. The RAEDC works closely with many partners to serve as a one-stop resource for clients, to improve the competitiveness of the region, and to engage the community in the work of economic development.



The Illinois SBDC International Trade Center of the Rockford Area (ITC) is a program that works directly with companies to increase the total value of goods exported from the Rockford Area of Illinois. Services are provided to companies to walk them through the process of establishing and growing an export program. The ITC also can provide assistance to foreign companies interested in sourcing manufactured products from the United States.