Radford grad plays key role in Virginia-Taiwan trade initiative
In September, the Commonwealth of Virginia opened a new trade office in Taiwan, thanks in large part to the efforts of Radford University alumnus Wyatt Toehlke ’18.
The purpose of the office is to present Virginia’s economic opportunities to investors in the East Asian country and strengthen international trade and investment ties between Virginia and Taiwan.
So, what was Toehlke’s role?
The former Radford University political science major serves as Virginia’s assistant secretary of commerce and trade and works on the international business portfolio in Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration. He works on the governor’s international business portfolio and ran point on opening Virginia’s Taiwan trade office.
Toehlke cultivated a relationship with Taiwan during his first days in the Youngkin administration and invited Representative Bi-khim Hsiao to Richmond to meet the governor. He then helped organize Youngkin’s trade mission to Taiwan, wrote the memorandum of understanding that Virginia signed with Taiwan and worked with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership to establish the physical office.
“They were very receptive to my overtures, as they themselves execute a robust subnational diplomacy program,” explained Toehlke, who got his first international experience at Radford University as a study-abroad student in Ukraine in 2017-18. “Working with them, we set out to accomplish several goals: a bilateral meeting between Gov. Youngkin and Representative Bi-Khim Hsiao, a Virginia trade mission to Taiwan and the establishment of a Virginia-Taiwan Trade Office.
“With overlapping key sectors in Virginia and Taiwan – defense/aerospace, semiconductors and IT – the office made a great deal of sense,” Toehlke said.
His experience in international affairs and domestic politics proved beneficial in establishing the office, which, after the agreement to open, had been scheduled for Sept. 19, U.S. Business Day in Taiwan. “We chose that date as a perfect time to open our office,” Toehlke said.
The Radford graduate approached the office-opening initiative with the same strategies he used as deputy state director for Youngkin’s campaign for governor.
“A lot had to be done, such as finding an office director, finding an office space, securing the correct permissions from the Taiwanese and keeping them abreast of all developments,” Toehlke said. “It took lots of long nights and bilateral meetings between our team and the Taiwanese.”
His responsibilities included maximizing turnout, nurturing stakeholder relations and choreographing their involvement while using the event to build goodwill in the community. The event turned into an enormous success with “three times the number of attendees we expected,” Toehlke said.
Attending the office opening were representatives from the Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the American Institute in Taiwan, Raytheon, the American Chamber in Taiwan, a number of think tanks and non-government organizations, as well as many interested Taiwanese companies.
The event also garnered extensive press coverage, with Toehlke included in group photos that appeared in the Taipei Times and Taiwan News.
“This office is a massive development for Virginia and our citizens,” Toehlke, a Virginia Beach native, explained. “Virginia’s Taiwan office will attract companies to Virginia that will offer our citizens high-paying, quality jobs and will help small and midsize companies sell their products into a large and dynamic market.
“I could also see us using the office in the future to attract Taiwanese students to Virginia's public higher education institutions, such as Radford University.”