Artcile posted in the Contra Costa Times on 01/10/2006 by Maris Bennett
What relationship does Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger bear to the city of Antioch? None, you'd most likely respond.
But Kelly Meine, acting president/CEO of the Union Hide Company, would view things quite differently. In November, the Antioch resident was one of a group of private citizens to accompany the governor on his Asian trip.
Meine's background lies in international business. After completing his graduate studies in 1981, he worked at an export company before moving into the steamship business. It was there that he received his best training, he said, including freight/tariff pricing and truck/traffic accounting. Two years spent in Korea, with six months in each separate department, then as a management trainee for five years, gave him a wealth of knowledge and experience.
The Union Hide Company originated in 1906 with a horse and wagon. In 1912, it purchased property in downtown Oakland where it built a three-story brick edifice.
One of Meine's friends, a vice president at Union Hide, was volunteering at the Oakland World Trade Association when he contacted Meine, in need of his expertise. In July 1986, Meine began working there as traffic manager. One of his jobs required traveling, and in 1987 he returned to Korea. To this day, Meine's still makes five or six trips a year.
In September 2001, Meine became Union Hide's fourth president. The company downsized and has a small management staff that oversees processing.
The pared-down staffing has resulted in not only less overhead, but has minimized headaches as well.
Kelly's previous experience in Korea, which was a main importer of hides, made his new job a perfect fit.
For the past three years, China has been the chief market for hides, hosting many leather exhibitions. In September 2004, Meine was attending one when an attaché from the U.S. Embassy came by with the press to take photos. Word had gotten out that a trip by Schwarzenegger might be in the works, and Meine was asked if he had an interest. He then e-mailed and wrote letters, finally receiving a call from the Agricultural Department in August 2005.
Three weeks prior to the actual trip, former Supervisor Sunne McPeak sent him a letter on Schwarzenegger's behalf, extending a personal invitation. Once in China, meetings took place with government officials, including the Prime Minister and Secretary of Agriculture. At the People's Hall, which has a capacity of 5,000, a "get-to-know you" meeting was held with delegates matched to various other attendees. Meine's conferees consisted of a journalist and president of a tanning company.
The following evening, he attended an exhibition during which he spent half an hour at a seminar with three VIPs. In Beijing, he heard the governor speak to an enthusiastic audience of vocal college students. Previous visits to Asia aside, being among the governor's delegation was a definite door-opening experience for him. At a reception, Meine mentioned that he would like to see a hide behind Schwarzenegger's Sacramento desk rather than in his Humvee. Later, at a thank-you dinner in Hong Kong's Grand Hyatt, Meine had photos taken with Schwarzenegger, as well as the honor of presenting him with a hide.
Meine is a firm advocate for further opening the trade doors to China, believing strongly in foreign direct investment. He wants Chinese government officials to allow the issuing of more import permit licenses. Currently, Beijing exerts strict control over licenses, cordoning business in defined areas and not allowing it to expand freely.
A normal Asian business trip for Meine consists of driving eight hours on a muddy road into the middle of nowhere. This trip was far from the norm. Perhaps the greatest reward came when he received a personal letter from Schwarzenegger that spoke of how much he'd enjoyed meeting Meine, and how impressed he'd been with Meine's knowledge, ideas and enthusiasm.
The letter also included a firm invitation for Union Hide's president to join him on future travels. As for Meine, he's keeping his bags packed and ready to go.
*Original article source can be found here.*