City, county task force coordinates dealings with ChinaWritten by Duane Ramsey | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Toledo-Lucas County China Investment and Development Task Force was established by the City of Toledo and Lucas County to coordinate activities involving trade with China. It has become known as the China Task Force.
The Lucas County Board of Commissioners, mayor of Toledo and Toledo City Council president sanctioned the work of the task force to engage in economic development issues with China operating within Toledo Sister Cities International.
“China respects government, so they created a body appointed by government that can now assume an aggressive role in trading with China,” said Jim Hartung, president and CEO of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority.
Hartung is co-chairing the China Task Force with Toledo City Councilman Mark Sobczak in an interim capacity. Both agree the chairman should be someone from the private sector.
The task force has met regularly to discuss the best strategies for attracting Chinese investments to Toledo. One of th consensuses was to establish an executive office under the China Task Force to better coordinate, strategize and develop programs involving Chinese investments here.
“We believe the public sector is important in a supporting role. There are certain people who will play a leadership role, and we have our eyes on some already involved in the task force,” Hartung said.
It was also the conclusion of the participants in the meetings that the China Task Force and Toledo Sister Cities should be hosting interested groups from China, since the Chinese recognize government representatives.
Unfortunately, Toledo Sister Cities International lost most of its funding when the City of Toledo cut those funds from its 2007 budget.
“I don’t think the lack of funding for Toledo Sisters Cities will continue due to the short-term fiscal problem, as there is a lot of support for it in the community,” Sobczak said.
“Our ability to attract knowledge-based jobs, maintain our manufacturing base, stabilize our population and grow our local economy requires us to look for investment sources on a worldwide scale,” Sobczak said.
The China Task Force is a collaborative effort by business and government that is still in an evolutionary process, Hartung said.
“The city and county appointed the body, and we’re working on the collaboration. Leadership has to come with patience, nurturing it along for now,” he said.
“It’s an extraordinary opportunity for this city to become a player in the global market. It’s an opportunity to draw the area’s interests together and create a platform to receive inquiries from China,” Hartung said.
There are three primary objectives of the task force as Hartung sees it.
First, it needs to create an inventory of Northwest Ohio businesses and organizations already involved in China as stakeholders. It is estimated that about 60 companies are already involved in China. Second, it should identify the process and protocol for handling inquiries from China and hosting delegations from China coming to Northwest Ohio. Third, it would handle inquiries from the Toledo area about doing business in China.
“We want to align ourselves with others sensitive to reaching out to nontraditional foreign trade opportunities with Toledo playing an increasing role in the global market,” Hartung said.
The China Task Force is working in collaboration with the Port Authority, a public agency that functions as a business, Hartung said. It is also collaborating with the Office of Global Initiatives at UT and the nonprofit SEED Corporation, both headed by Bob Cryan.
UT’s Office of Global Initiatives, under Cryan’s direction, has established trade offices in Beijing and Shanghai. Toledo’s Sister City of Qinhuangdao has expressed an interest in opening an office in Toledo and having a Toledo office located there.
UT President Lloyd Jacobs and Dan Johnson, president emeritus at UT, who is involved in the Science and Technology Corridor, are on the China Task Force. Johnson works with the Office of Global Initiatives and said he is drafting a global strategy for UT.
“Collaboration is fine for now,” Hartung said. But he conceded an address or office, resources and a staff person are needed to sustain the efforts of the China Task Force.