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China wasn’t foreign to Omaha chamber official

China wasn’t foreign to Omaha chamber official

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Mindy Ruffalo was on familiar turf when dispatched recently to her first overseas assignment as the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce’s new international business development director.

Ruffalo, just two months into her job, traveled with a small Nebraska delegation to China, where she previously had studied, lived and worked.

During those earlier stays she also learned Mandarin, which was a plus on the 14-day business development mission.

Ruffalo and three staffers from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development visited four Chinese cities — Xi’an, Chengdu, Shanghai and Beijing — to try to recruit more business to Nebraska, nurture existing relationships and build more.

The group met with Chinese government officials and business leaders and visited companies that have a Nebraska-China connection, including Right at Home, Werner Enterprises, Jiangsu World Group and Easyway International.

Others involved in the October mission included Cobus Block, Joe Chapuran and Jessica Zhang from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development and Jennifer Zhang of JZW International.

Ruffalo, a Colorado native who most recently lived in Phoenix, also speaks fluent Italian and can speak a little of several other languages.

She began her career in China consulting with companies such as Siemens, Agricultural Bank of China, China Construction Bank and Western Union on market development strategy in mainland China and internationally.

While in Phoenx, she served as vice chairwoman for the National Association of Asian American Professionals and Asian Corporate & Entrepreneur Leaders.

Ruffalo came to Omaha for personal reasons — she’s newly married to Barry Ruffalo, president of infrastructure at Lindsay Corp.

In her new position, Ruffalo plans further research to identify and then attract international companies that are a good fit with the Omaha area. In addition to serving as a link between Omaha and foreign investors and businesses, she also will help keep local companies up to speed on import and international trade issues.

Today, for example, she is host of a “lunch and learn” session on the latest Asia Pacific-related trade agreements and how they affect multinational companies.

Contact the writer: 402-444-1224, cindy.gonzalez@owh.com

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