Written by Duane Ramsey | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Local business people, who were part of Toledo’s most recent delegation to China, returned from the trip last week with positive impressions of their Chinese counterparts and the potential for additional investments in Toledo and Northwest Ohio.
“I was impressed beyond my expectations with Mayor Bell and how he engaged the people on the goodwill side and as a strong ambassador for the business community,” said Dean Niese, senior vice president and chief operating officer of the Mannick & Smith Group, Inc. of Maumee.
“The most important reason we were there for was to engage in business development activities and we were more successful than I expected,” he said.
“The most important things to the Chinese are relationships and trust,” said James Lindsay, president and legal counsel for Louisville Title of Toledo.
“As a local business person, I came away with the confidence that our mayor, RGP President Dean Monske and Scott Prephan have the qualities that are needed to attract foreign investment to Toledo,” Lindsay said.
Both Lindsay and Niese believe that Mayor Bell, Monske, Prephan and Simon Guo have established a network of major successful investors in China that can help develop the assets of the Toledo community.
“It was interesting to watch the mayor and his team doing a great job working with the investors who want to invest in Toledo. Guo is the key to all this. Along with Prephan, they have many established relationships in China. It was exciting to be part of it,” Lindsay said.
Jessica Xie, vice president of the Hylant Group of Toledo and another member of the delegation, was born in Beijing and speaks Mandarin Chinese. She provided commentary for the video and slide presentations about Northwest Ohio the delegation showed their Chinese hosts.
“It was a very productive trip as we met with Chinese business owners who could be potential investors. We were building stronger relationships with the Chinese who visited Toledo and making connections with other investors interested in Toledo. The feedback was very positive,” Xie said.
Niese reported that private business meetings were held every day with support from the mayor and others on the team.
“It was exciting to see people from halfway around the world who are impressed with the assets we have more than some people who live here,” Niese said. “These investors are looking to invest in the community based on what they know about it.”
Niese said he made the trip as a continuation of the firm’s efforts to assist in developments from the ground up and find work for the people it employs. He followed a trip to China by his employee Cheri Bokros last September.
“I wanted to demonstrate a commitment from the top of our firm and see firsthand the opportunities there,” Niese said about making his first trip to China paid for by his company.
“We made an investment and we think we’ll see a return on that investment but there are no guarantees. It was work and not a vacation,” he said.
“Whether networking in our office or in China, that’s what enables businesses to grow,” Niese said.
Lindsay said he traveled with the Toledo delegation to China as a “trusted advisor on title insurance and closing matters” for Prephan and his real estate business.
Lindsay had spent time with the Chinese delegation that visited Toledo last fall and formed the basis for a relationship with them. He had looked forward to his first trip to China that was paid for by his company.
“It is my hope that we will be able to secure some business on title-related matters and assist in providing property profiles to potential investors but that wasn’t the sole focus of my trip,” Lindsay said.
One of his purposes was to answer any questions the Chinese business people had about title insurance matters in the U.S., which are quite different from those in China. Being an attorney certainly helped, he said.
Lindsay reported that they took a tour of the Empire Building in Shenzhen developed by the Dashing Pacific Group.
“We wanted to see that they had the capability and development experience on large-scale projects. We already knew they were talking to Rudolph Libbe about the Marina District development” Lindsay said.
While in China, the delegation learned that Toledo-based Owens Corning had opened a new production facility in China as reported in Site Selection magazine (May 2011 issue).
The Toledo business delegation included Roger Jorgenson, vice president of Syn Terra Energy affiliated with Midwest Terminals, and Mike Farrar, an associate of Prephan.
When asked what the business members of the delegation contributed to the trip, Monske replied with one word: “credibility.”
“It’s one thing to have elected and economic development officials there, but when business people from here are talking to business people there, it moves the discussion to another level,” he said.
However, it wasn’t just the business people that made an impression in China, according to Monske. He cited the example of having Kathleen Carroll, president and CEO, and
Amy Chang, a cellist, of the Toledo Symphony Orchestra, as members of the delegation.
Chang, who is from Taiwan, “spoke the language and was able to communicate everyday life in Toledo. It’s difficult to measure just how significant an impact they had on building relationships with the Chinese,” Lindsay said.
Monske and Prephan reported that members of the last Chinese delegation to Toledo saw the orchestra perform at Carnegie Hall in New York City and are interested in raising money to bring the symphony to perform in several cities in China.
Considering the strong support from the national conservatory in China for bringing the symphony there, Monske said he believes it will happen in the near future.