Four southern mayors and a judge are on a mission in China's top cities to reach out to foreign economic developers. Their 10 day trip started in Beijing, at an outbound investment summit.
“They could feel our community through the way we portrayed it through our mayor's forum, how great it is, and they want to come visit us,” said Dothan Mayor Mike Schmitz.
Visit, invest, and create jobs. However, when you compete globally, you have to start at the top. The southern delegation met with Chief Executive Officer of Hong Kong CY Leung.
George Harris is legal counsel for SoZo Group—an advisory and economic development company that spear headed the mayors' trip.
Harris explained, “To be able to sit down with the Chief Executive Officer of Hong Kong, which is basically the president of Hong Kong, at his residence, would be sort of like sitting down with the president of the United States.”
His residence is a historic building, where they receive foreign dignitaries. In fact, Mayor Schmitz sat in the chair former President Bill Clinton once sat in.
Jill Swain is mayor of Huntersville, North Carolina. She said their meeting opened ties between the Far East and the Southeast.
“He's looking at economic development but at a level that's much higher than the level we're looking at. But when it comes down to it, we're all looking for the same thing. We want jobs for our citizens; we want a better quality of life. We want to really position our communities to be global,” said Mayor Swain.
The mayors are considering Chinese investment because American manufacturers are not expanding. Alabama is a front runner for these companies because of its fertile environment.
Linda Yuang is a global partner for the Yingke Law Firm, which organized the investment seminars.
She said, “[When] talking about manufacturing, as far as we know, southern America is the best choice. That’s why we take the delegation to Dothan. Having the mayors visit, it can deliver stronger information to Chinese entrepreneurs.”
Mayor Schmitz said that information is mutually beneficial.
“They just want to improve their lives, grow their businesses, have successful businesses, and make a better life for their children. Same thing we want to do, and plus, it all comes down to good paying jobs,” he said.
Chinese leaders enjoyed the charismatic banter between the southern mayors, and couldn't ignore their strong message.
“We're here first and I think we're blazing trails and that's pretty significant,” said Mayor Swain.