Regional Delegation Expands Into China
Research Triangle Region business and community leaders took their first coordinated steps in October to expand business investment with the People's Republic of China.
A regional delegation visited Shanghai, Suzhou and Beijing during the first major mission coordinated by the World Trade Center North Carolina (WTCNC), which reopened earlier this year as a program of the Research Triangle Regional Partnership (RTRP).
"China is a major and growing economy," said RTRP President and CEO Charles Hayes. "We see vast potential for building relationships -- cultural, academic and business -- that will benefit our region in many ways. This trip represents a major first step in that direction for us."
The mission to China is part of the region's global investment strategy, which has focused primarily on business development in Europe and Canada for the past decade.
The China mission aimed to expose regional representatives to new business opportunities in Asia, expand the Research Triangle Region's brand to that region, and discuss regional opportunities with companies that have existing investments in the region, such as Lenovo and Baolong Industries. Baolong is the parent of Dill Air Products, which operates a manufacturing plant in the region.
"To hear officials in China tell us how pleased they are with their manufacturing operations here in Oxford was very exciting," said Leon Turner, director of the Granville Economic Development Commission.
Oxford is located in Granville County, in the northern part of the Research Triangle Region.
"I believe there is great potential for our region to build solid relationships and friendships in China that can benefit both regions," Turner said. "Many of our companies can market products in China. Many of their companies can invest here. Building these relationships will take time and work on our part. But we cannot afford not to pursue China with its huge market and investment potential."
Representing the region in China were Turner; World Trade Center Director Doug Aitkin, who coordinated the trip; RTRP Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer Ted Abernathy; and Wake Economic Development Director Ken Atkins.
The regional delegation called on such companies as Baosteel, China Shipping Group, China Pacific Insurance Asset Management Company, Shanghai Video and Audio Electronics, Bank of Communication, China NetCom and PICC Asset Management.
Regional officials also met with representatives of the International Association of Science Parks, which will hold its World Conference in Raleigh in 2009, and Suzhou Industrial Park, which opened a North American office at the North Carolina China Center in late October.
"Part of China's national strategy is to encourage Chinese companies to invest more overseas," Abernathy said. "Our delegation was consistently met with questions about how Chinese companies could invest in the region and what were the next steps to find ways to cooperate."
Abernathy also accompanied Duane Long, president of Longistics, WTCNC board member and chairman of the North Carolina China Center, and Long's delegation for an additional week of meetings and presentations in Jinan, Nanjing and Hong Kong. The North Carolina China Center is developing business relationships in the areas of logistics and environmental sciences and is building close relationships with science parks and regional elected officials.
"This was my first trip to China," Abernathy said. "I was surprised to find the local English-language newspapers covering the same types of issues that our papers cover in this region: the shortage of technical workers, a new-homes market glut, debates about incentives, the loss of manufacturing jobs to low-cost markets, deteriorating groundwater supplies and the economic impact of U.S. company purchases made by Chinese companies."
Delegation members returned to the region convinced that great opportunity exists in China, he said, and that the RTRP and the World Trade Center North Carolina should lead two to three trips a year to pursue it.
"If we're going to meet the global branding objectives of our regional competitiveness strategy, Staying On Top, we must have significant impact in China," Abernathy said.
Plans are under way for a larger regional delegation, including business leaders, to return to China in the spring.
RTRP is the public/private partnership that promotes economic development for the 13-county region of North Carolina comprising Chatham, Durham, Franklin, Granville, Harnett, Johnston, Lee, Moore, Orange, Person, Vance, Wake and Warren counties.
RTRP coordinates the regional competitiveness strategy, called Staying on Top: Winning the Job Wars of the Future. It is a five-year, $5 million effort to create 100,000 jobs in the 13-county region and boost employment in every county.
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