Lixin Cheng, CEO of ZTE USA, visited from the company's Dallas headquarters. Lixin Cheng, CEO of ZTE USA, visited from the company's Dallas headquarters. [Enlarge]

A Chinese telecom equipment giant has opened a gleaming Atlanta office to better serve its primary local customer and build momentum for its brand, still relatively unknown in the U.S. despite the company's growing clout.

ZTE USA Inc. is a unit of Shenzhen, China-based ZTE Corp., which has more than 70,000 employees worldwide and annual sales of $10.6 billion. The Atlanta office, one of 14 across the U.S., develops mobile phones, chip modules and other devices for AT&T Mobility.

Top ZTE executives, including Chairman Hou Weigui, visited Atlanta from Shenzhen on June 15 to celebrate the opening of the company's new digs in Buckhead.

The 8,800-square-foot space at the 3630 Peachtree building more than doubles the size of its previous office on Lenox Road. It also puts the company closer to AT&T's Buckhead facility.

ZTE on Tuesday hosted a reception for employees and business and government leaders, offering drinks, a sushi bar and a tour of the newly designed seventh-floor office. From the windows in the conference room and corner offices, ZTE leaders and engineers can peer out at the AT&T building where they are spending much of their time.

The relocation shows ZTE's confidence in its ties with AT&T and its commitment to advancing innovation and hiring Atlanta talent for the long term, Mr. Hou said through an interpreter. The lease agreement on the office is for 10 years.

 “We knew that it was the right choice,” he said, noting that a meeting with Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal boosted his confidence even more.

The Atlanta strategy is consistent with ZTE's common practice globally of putting offices near customers in order to provide excellent and responsive service, Lixin Cheng, CEO of Dallas-based ZTE USA.

Though its bread and butter has been base stations and other infrastructure equipment, ZTE is targeting growth in consumer products, especially in developed markets. It has supplied prepaid and contract phones for AT&T and has provided phones, 4G data cards and other devices to Sprint, Verizon, Metro PCS and T-Mobile. ZTE introduced 14 new devices in the U.S. during 2010, Mr. Cheng said.

Despite its position as the No. 5 phone maker in the world, just below Apple Inc., ZTE's slice of the crowded U.S. market is minuscule, accounting for less than 1 percent of phones shipped last quarter.

The company will focus on a mix of affordability, quality and unparalleled service to partner carriers to stand out from competitors, Mr. Cheng told GlobalAtlanta in an interview.

ZTE has unveiled smartphones and tablets powered by Google Inc.'s Android operating system in markets outside the U.S., including Europe. A branded smartphone is slated for release in the U.S. “later this year,” he said.

The Buckhead office started with two employees in 2009 and has grown to about 30, with leaders already planning to hire about 10 more.

Georgia could use the new jobs, hinted Gretchen Corbin, deputy commissioner for global commerce at the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

“We thank you for choosing Georgia as your home. We ask that you bring more to your new Georgia home, and we promise we will be with you hand in hand to help you as your company grows,” Ms. Corbin said in remarks welcoming Mr. Hou and his delegation.

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