Industrial China is rapidly entering a new era. While overseas, Dothan Mayor Mike Schmitz visited several facilities, and saw some of those changes first-hand.
“The whole world's changed in China. The infrastructure costs have gone way up. They now have 700 to 800 million middle class. Their wages have gone way up. They're capitalists,” said Mayor Schmitz.
He met exclusively with Lian Ning, general manager of Nanjing Electronics—the company which donated 3D printers to Wallace Community College and Dothan Technology Center. Now, a deal is in the works to bring a 3D printer factory to Dothan.
“Because I have such a good impression about Dothan, during the November trip, I’m looking forward to have a better understanding of this city, and later on, we will work with SoZo Group to maybe invest there,” explained Ning, of Nanjing Zijin-Lead Electronics Co., Ltd.
Sheldon Day is mayor of Thomasville, Alabama. He signed a deal for a 100 million dollar facility with Golden Dragon. The copper manufacturer will employ 300 Alabamians. However, these deals don't happen overnight. Day courted Golden Dragon for three years.
Day said, “It's kind of like dating and getting married. Most people don’t just elope and go get married anymore. They date for quite a while and then they decide to get married. Well, that's very much somewhere in the economic development right now.”
Juliana Lam is managing director of a large brand name glove manufacturing facility. Lam said her company may expand to Monroeville, Alabama.
“Most of our customers are located in the states so it just came to me as why not? You know, to me, it’s not a move back, but to go in and start something and partner with the local people,” said Lam, of AML Group Holdings Ltd.
Smaller cities, like Dothan, are appealing to these Chinese business leaders because they have more room for growth, and the companies have enough jobs to employ people in the entire region. Many of these companies make U.S. products for Walmart, Northface, and Nike.
Although Chinese business leaders hope to expand to the states, legal challenges loom.
“There can be certain federal laws, particular in national security areas, which require a review of that company. It’s not specific to China, but there have been a few high profile Chinese companies that have been reviewed,” said George Harris, general counsel and VP of Government Affairs for SoZo Group.
One in particular is Huawei—the largest telecommunications company in the world. Washington accused Huawei of being a national security threat, but they opened their doors on a Saturday to meet the mayors. Founders said they are a private company, and want to join the U.S. market like everyone else.