Good morning, Vietnam! Some of you may remember this as the title of a movie about the Vietnam War. Think again.
If you want a glimpse of the global future and a different type of “good morning,” visit Vietnam.
It’s a country that older Americans may think of as a war and younger Americans think of as a travel destination, if they think of it at all. But it represents what many emerging economies have going for them. And if we don’t take note, we could be on the losing end when it comes to business.
I recently spent a week in Hanoi with Boise State’s Executive MBA group to learn about how an emerging economy works, what challenges it faces, and what it might mean for some of Idaho’s business firms. Several of those Executive MBAs do research for companies in Boise that are interested in building business in Vietnam, and three of their projects seem to have potential.
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As we closed the week, one member of the group mentioned that perhaps on future trips, we could focus even more on finding ways for these very smart Executive MBAs/business managers to act as consultants for Idaho firms that are interested in business opportunities in Vietnam. Indeed, when I mentioned the idea to our Vietnamese counterparts, they agreed that it could be a great way to build trade links between the state and the country.
And why not?
The Idaho Statesman’s Dan Popkey recently reported on an essay that Gov. Butch Otter wrote about the importance of trade between Asia and Idaho, and in particular, the deep relationships that Idaho has with Vietnam. As Otter wrote, eight out of Idaho’s top 10 export destinations are in the Asia Pacific region.
And we have a unique way to tap Vietnam, in particular.
Nearly 20 years ago, Boise State helped create Vietnam’s first international standard business school within the National Economics University in Hanoi. As part of that effort, more than 80 Vietnamese have received an MBA from BSU, and many of them are in leadership positions in government, business and education. Those long-term ties can help Idaho firms and industries that want to do business in the country.
It’s a country that makes sense for companies in Idaho, and the United States generally, to pursue for many reasons. Yes, we have a long and controversial history, but relations have improved dramatically as trade, cultural and economic connections have deepened. Many Vietnamese who fled in 1975 still have family in Vietnam and increasingly do business there.
And Vietnam’s got a very young population (more than 60 percent are under age 30), a growing middle class and a lot of pluck.
Several of us have watched the country and its people become more assertive about wanting to do business. It is still not at all easy, and there’s a long way to go to be successful, to be sure. But I have hope. The Vietnamese are resilient, resourceful and have had to reinvent themselves repeatedly. They seem to be doing it again.
Last, I am hopeful because of the “bridge generation” — those who grew up during the war, lived through serious hardships and are building the economy today. They, plus our own sharp business managers and Executive MBA participants in particular, may make “Good Morning, Vietnam” a phrase with a new meaning in the future.