by Trevor Williams | August 27, 2013
When Georgia's new representative in China entertains clients in his Qingdao office, they'll get an ocean view from the 14th floor of the Hisense Tower.
Hisense, which makes an array of products from refrigerators to flat-screen TVs, has its North American headquarters and a research and development center northeast of Atlanta. As it has expanded in Georgia over the last few years, the company has become a resource for the state in China, building a relationship that helped influence the state's decision to set up in Qingdao.
In a 25th-floor conference room, Hisense's teal palette was temporarily veiled on Aug. 27 in ceremonial red as a few hundred people squeezed in to see Seth Jacobs officially installed as Georgia's newest international representative.
Gov. Nathan Deal gave Mr. Jacobs a framed photo of the Governor's Mansion to hang in his office, which the governor called a constant reminder to the Chinese of Georgia's opportunities and hospitality.
But he reserved a specific honor for Yu Shumin, president of Hisense, a state-owned company.
She received the inaugural Georgia Friendship Award, which was created to honor individuals who play a special role in the strengthening the relationship between Georgia and China. (State leaders said the award wasn't just for show, that it is modeled after similar annual awards given as part of the state's alliances with Japan.)
Ms. Yu quietly accepted the award. In fact, no Hisense representatives spoke at the event. Perhaps they felt that hosting was evidence enough their support, but Mr. Deal didn't for get to show his gratitude.
"Hisense has played a significant role in today's events. Not only are they a leading corporate citizen of Georgia; they were instrumental in making this event possible," the governor said.
He told Global Atlanta after the event that the state also has strong port ties with Qingdao. Georgia Ports Authority's executive director, Curtis Foltz, was in China with the delegation, while its Shanghai representative, Charles You, was in the crowd at the Hisense building.
It helps, too, that the competition in Qingdao is slim: Mr. Deal knew of no other states that have offices in the province, which is consistently ranked among the top five metros in China for outbound investment.
Mr. Deal hopes that along with more investment will come increased trade, particularly in services and technology, two sectors where Qingdao is receptive and Georgia is strong. Qingdao's central business district consists mainly of massive skyscrapers home to banks and hotels serving honeymooners and business travelers alike.
Nick Masino, senior vie president of economic development at the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, said Hisense and more recently Haier, another Qingdao-based appliance maker which imports products through the Georgia ports, have put their stamps of approval on the state.
"These companies give Georgia instant credibility with any and all Chinese companies and governments" and "put us in competitions that we might not have been in previously," Mr. Masino told Global Atlanta.
The Global Atlanta China blog is made possible by Windham Brannon, an Atlanta-based CPA firm providing audit, tax and advisory services for businesses and high net-worth individuals.