Op/Ed: Chester County benefits from China partnership

By Terence Farrell, Chester County Commissioner


Michael Grigalonis, COO of Chester County Economic Development Council


Recently, political and business leaders from Chester County visited China seeking to improve business and investment relationships. From left, David Liu, General Manager of CTDI’s China Operations, Chester County Commissioner Terence Farrell, Mike Grigalonis, Chief Operating Officer of the Chester County Economic Development Council and an unidentified member of CTDI’s China Operations.

Chester County citizens and businesses will greatly benefit from the establishment of a partnership between the county and China. We have just returned from a nine-day Sino-American Regional Business Development & Cultural Exchange Summit that centered in the Yongchuan District (Chongqing Province), the county’s sister community in China.

The trip has already produced three immediate positive outcomes for the county. Chinese investors are considering investing in county projects; our educational community, through The Lincoln University, has entered into an exchange program; and members of our mushroom industry have a great opportunity to act as consultants to help improve the growing of fresh mushrooms in China, especially the emerging markets in Yongchuan and Ba’nan.

Dr. Robert Jennings, President of The Lincoln University, joined us on our trip, and he had fruitful discussions in two areas. One involved the signing of an agreement to allow for an exchange program with a Chinese university. (West Chester University and other county institutions of higher learning also have opportunities to build upon existing relationships and establish new ones in the educational arena.)

The second area of benefit for The Lincoln University involves interest from a Chinese investor in a planned hotel for the University and a Research and Development Center. The Chinese investor has a trip planned for mid-November to review the proposed site for the hotel and R&D center.

The United States government has a program to encourage foreign investors to take part in funding projects in this country. For investing a minimum of $500,000 in these projects – such as the one at Lincoln – the foreign investor receives Green Card considerations and a chance to earn modest returns from the investments. This is a win-win situation for everyone involved. However, securing a place in this federal program won’t be easy. Chester County will need quality projects to attract investors, and there are limits on available Green Cards. Also, other countries, such as Canada, have similar programs to attract investments.  We are hopeful that the relationships we have developed, and the commitment we have shown, will provide a competitive edge and distinguish our projects from others seeking investment dollars.

Officials from one of Chester County’s most iconic companies, Communications Test Design, Inc. (CTDI) also took part in our exchange by hosting us at their facility in Beijing.  The Beijing facility is one of eleven that CTDI operates in China.  During our visit, we provided information on how our contacts and relationships in Chongqing might be helpful for the company’s potential expansion there. Again, we believe our growing relationship with China can provide a competitive edge for our companies.

One area we visited, Ba’nan, grows fresh mushrooms, but their production methods are behind those incorporated in our cutting-edge Chester County farms. County mushroom growers now have an opportunity for joint ventures in China or to provide consulting services there. Since fresh mushrooms are not shipped between the two countries, there is no competition between Chinese and U.S. growers and, therefore, a perfect opportunity to share knowledge and collaborate.

In addition to the support provided by our own respective staffs and organizations, we received support from the Chester County Chamber of Business and Industry, the Main Line Chinese Cultural Center and ABD International. ABD International President Sue Cheng, who was born in China, traveled with our group and was a great help during the trip. Individual companies in Chester County also contributed financial support, and we received help from the World Trade Center of Greater Philadelphia.

Some of the locations visited were Beijing, Chongqing City, Yongchuan and Ba’nan Districts (Chongqing Province), Shanghai and the Great Wall. Plans are already being made for Chinese business leaders to visit Chester County next year; and an anticipated return by county leaders will take place in 2016.

A successful relationship with China will take time, effort, and a strong commitment on both ends to bring results. Chester County is in this initiative for the long haul as we realize the effort will bring lasting benefit for county residents and businesses.

For those interested in learning more or participating in this Chester County-China initiative, please contact Michael Grigalonis at mgrigalonis@cceconomicdevelopment.com or 610-321-8214.

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