The Chinese city of Hangzhou is looking to “join hands” with Atlanta in economic partnership, the city’s Deputy Mayor Tong Guili said at the Metro Atlanta Chamber May 19.
Ms. Tong led a delegation of business and government leaders to Georgia to participate in the BIO International Convention and to reciprocate a visit by chamber officials to Hangzhou last month.
Ms. Tong presented Hangzhou as a hospitable place for foreign companies, noting that Atlanta-based beverage giant Coca-Cola Co. made the first investment in the city by an overseas firm in the 1980s.
Now, she said, foreign companies are working on 9,000 projects in Hangzhou, a city of about 6 million southwest of Shanghai where more than 130,000 private enterprises are operating.
Forbes magazine ranked Hangzhou as the top city in China for business in each of the last five years, according to the China Daily newspaper.
Ms. Tong said the Hangzhou government and the city’s industry federation have struck partnerships with their counterparts in many U.S. cities and wanted to explore cooperation with Atlanta, “an economic powerhouse” in the Southeast.
“Our two sides will do very much to help companies from the two cities to carry out cooperation in the manufacturing sectors and build more links and relations,” Ms. Tong told GlobalAtlanta.
But it’s more than manufacturing. Hangzhou is also looking for companies to invest in the service and high-technology sectors. The city is a tourist hub that boasts a rich cultural history and a desirable living environment, Ms. Tong said.
John Woodward, director of inbound foreign investment for the Metro Atlanta Chamber, visited Hangzhou on the chamber trade mission and met with leaders from the industry federation, municipal government and local companies.
The chamber has cast a wide net in China, visiting the country eight times in the last few years as part of its strategy targeting the emerging “BRIC” countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China. On the April trip, three chamber teams visited 11 Chinese cities in two weeks.
Mr. Woodward said some of the Hangzhou companies came to Atlanta with Ms. Tong to reciprocate the chamber visit, a customary practice in Chinese business relationships.
“That’s how these relationships get started,” he told GlobalAtlanta.
Hangzhou is a logical choice for Atlanta to extend its China base, Mr. Woodward said. The chamber already has good ties with two companies based in Ningbo, a city in located in Zhejiang province, where Hangzhou is the capital.
Hailun Piano has a distribution facility in Atlanta, and Lehui Enterprises entered into a joint venture with a New Jersey company to make a soy sauce and food products packaging plant in Newnan.
Mr. Woodward also visited Ningbo on the recent trip. He met with these two companies as well as new prospects, two of which are “very strong contenders” for announcing Atlanta investments soon, he said.
“Zhejiang province is where I’m having certainly a noticeable amount of activity,” Mr. Woodward said. He called it his top provincial prospect for inbound investment.
Hans Gant, senior vice president for economic development at the chamber, has not visited Hangzhou, but he told the delegation that he ‘s anxious to go.
He cited the shared spirit of entrepreneurship between the two cities as an advantage.
“I know that we have a lot in common. Atlanta is the No. 1 city in the United States for entrepreneurship, and I can tell from what you’ve said Hangzhou must be the No. 1 city for entrepreneurship in China,” he said.
Kathe Falls, international trade director for Georgia, presented Ms. Tong with a gift on behalf of the state. Atlanta city councilmen Jim Maddox and Kwanza Hall did the same for the city.
Businesspeople aren’t the only ones coming from Hangzhou to Georgia. Global Achievers, a Newnan-based educational organization that helps high school students to engage in international partnerships, is facilitating a visit by 50 students and 10 adults from Hangzhou’s Wenlan School July 23-28.
They make up an orchestra that performs on ancient Chinese instruments while wearing traditional costumes.
They’ll do two concerts, one at the Rialto Center for the Arts in Atlanta and another in Newnan, said Bette Hickman, Global Achievers’ executive director.
“This school is a jewel in the crown of Hangzhou. They performed in Paris a few years ago. This will be their second world tour and they picked our state,” Ms. Hickman told GlobalAtlanta.
For more information on the concerts, contact Ms. Hickman by e-mail at email@example.com.