Fulton County inked a new partnership Monday with the Taiwanese city that is home to the island’s largest and best-connected international airport.
County commission Chairman John Eaves signed the pact with Taoyuan in the presence of the new director-general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, Vincent Jing-Yen Liu. The agreement had already been signed by the Taoyuan government.
“Before I came to Atlanta, I was briefed by the foreign ministry, and to close the deal is a priority task, and I’m very glad that with the help from the chairman we can deliver on this idea in a very reasonable period of time,” Mr. Liu told Global Atlanta after the signing. He took up his new post in December.
Most who have flown into Taiwan have touched Taoyuan, home to a hub that served 40 million air travelers last year.
Formerly an outlying suburb of Taipei, the capital, Taoyuan city has been transformed over the last decade as one of many new urban areas relieving pressure on the capital city in one of the most densely populated countries in the world.
Just a few days before, Taoyuan hosted a test ride of a new metro line connecting the city’s high-speed rail station to the airport, a project a decade in the making. According to the China Post, an English daily in Taipei, reviews were mixed. The new train also links Taipei to the airport.
Taoyuan is also home to a planned $15 billion “Aerotropolis” development that aims to boost Taiwan’s standing as a transit, tourism and logistics hub.
The ambitious plan stoked controversy upon its introduction, as opponents protested government efforts to consolidate a comprehensive site by expropriating more than 9,000 acres of farm land. Elected in 2014, Mayor Cheng Wen-tsan in 2015 said he would continue with the project but improve transparency.
Airport-area development is one aspect of the Fulton County sister-community deal, which aims to encourage collaborations in the areas of culture, education and business.
While the airport itself is run by the city of Atlanta, southern Fulton County stands to benefit from overflow activity of the new Aerotropolis Atlanta plan, through which the communities around the world’s busiest airport jointly market their advantages to investors both foreign and domestic. Major headquarters of companies like Delta Air Lines Inc., Chick-fil-A and Porsche Cars North America lie within the influence area.
Mr. Eaves is planning a mission to Taiwan this year to explore opportunities for business collaboration. He’s also interested in adding Taiwan to the list of countries touched by his Global Youth Leadership Program, which has taken students from Fulton County on exchange programs to places like Brazil, Turkey, China and Germany.
The signing was undertaken the day after the Taiwanese community held a Super Bowl party in part to honor the longstanding sister-city ties between Atlanta and Taipei, which Mr. Liu hopes to exploit further as he aims to intensify collaboration between Taiwan and the U.S. South.
Mr. Eaves praised Mr. Liu for helping “close the deal” on a partnership that’s been more than a year in the making.
“Fulton County wants to get involved in international partnerships, so I think it’s just good timing to start anew — beginning of the year — so I’m looking forward to it,” Mr. Eaves said.
Mr. Eaves, a former Peace Corps regional director and chair of the Atlanta Sister Cities Commission, said it takes intense focus to ensure that these collaborations are substantive. Some sister-city ties are relationships in name only.
“I’ve found that if you’re very focused with specific target areas, there’s more likelihood of success,” he added.
Also at the signing were members of Mr. Eaves’s staff and representatives of the Atlanta Taiwanese Chamber of Commerce.