Delegation returns from China with positive reportsWritten by Duane Ramsey | | firstname.lastname@example.org
A delegation of 19 business and civic leaders led by Toledo Mayor Mike Bell, the Regional Growth Partnership (RGP) and 5 Lakes Global Group returned from its latest trip to China on Nov. 21 after promoting Toledo and the Northwest Ohio region.
“It was the best team I’ve ever seen on an overseas mission in 16 years. Everyone was there to promote Toledo and Northwest Ohio. I don’t think there is another city or region in the U.S. that has developed successful relationships in China as Toledo has,” said Paul Zito, vice president of international development for RGP, who made the trip with Dean Monske, president of the economic development organization.
“It was a very good group and they all brought different perspectives from many different industries,” said James Lindsay, president of Louisville Title Agency of Toledo, who made his third trip to China with the Toledo delegation.
“The marketing of the Toledo region throughout all of China by the 5 Lakes Global team with the support of Mayor Bell, the Regional Growth Partnership and members of the Toledo business community has been astonishing,” Lindsay said.
More than 1,000 Chinese companies were exposed to the value of locating in Northwest Ohio and more than 15 strong leads were generated by the delegation. While there, 5 Lakes Global hosted several conferences for Chinese companies at the China Hi-Tech Fair in Shenzhen and at other events in Zhenjiang, Suzhou, Pujiang and Shanghai.
Meetings took place with more than a dozen Chinese companies with an interest in this region. Several of those companies are in the final stages of developing their business plans for the U.S. and plan to visit the Toledo area before the end of the year, Zito said.
Meetings were arranged in Shenzhen with CEOs of large successful businesses who had attended the 5 Lakes Global Economic Forum in Toledo. These business leaders flew in from all parts of China to not only invest in Toledo but to assist in promoting and building Toledo internationally, Lindsay said.
“The best thing we were able to do was to engage our private business community so they could see for themselves the potential in China by working with business people there,” Bell said.
“We’ve made four trips to China so people over there know that we’re serious about doing business with them. We now have the respect of the Chinese business community,” Bell said.
“Mayor Bell was a great presence and leader of the presentations about the region,” Zito said.
“I was very impressed with the mayor’s ability to keep his energy and focus up. He’s very effective in this type of effort to promote the City of Toledo and this region,” said Harlan Reichle, president and CEO of Reichle Klein Group, a commercial real estate brokerage and property management firm in Toledo.
Reichle also serves as chairman of the board of directors for RGP and was interested in seeing firsthand its role in helping bring investment to the region through such international efforts.
“It’s a prudent investment for RGP,” Reichle said.
Reichle said Simon Guo and Scott Prephan of 5 Lakes Global were very organized in planning and orchestrating events and meetings to make the most of the time there.
“They had us working constantly and the delegation worked very hard together. These trips are very worthwhile and something we need to do for our region,” he said.
Reichle said he had conversations with several companies interested in investing in the U.S. and specifically the Toledo area or in locating business operations here. There is a huge potential in both regards, he said.
Will Lucas, a Toledo entrepreneur who made the trip, was impressed with the level of interest in the Toledo region.
“People were excited to learn about our region and they were really passionate about Toledo, its architecture and buildings,” Lucas said.
Lucas said a contact he made in Shanghai was in Ann Arbor recently so they met in Dundee to discuss the possibility of working together. Lucas owns two technology companies — Classana, an educational resource engine, and Creadio, a brand marketing business, that are of interest to the Chinese.
Zito said it takes multiple trips and more than a year to make a difference in an international market such as China. The Toledo delegation has made four trips to China during the past three years to accomplish what it has.
“We now have the resources that can help almost any company do business in China,” Zito said.
Frank Calzonetti, vice president of research and economic development at the University of Toledo, said he appreciated having the opportunity to participate on his first trip to China with the local delegation.
“The trip was extremely well-organized and we went nonstop morning to late evening each day on business-related meetings or internal travel. Each day, we met with leaders from government, industry, academia and economic development organizations that are likely to result in follow-up meetings in Toledo,” Calzonetti wrote in an email he sent while attending a conference out of town.
He said they met with two technology companies that will explore the possibility of opening operations in Toledo. He also met with higher education officials about developing joint programs with UT and with people who were interested in UT for both graduate and undergraduate education.
Others agreed that they were involved in conferences, meetings and other events 14-16 hours every day. The main delegation arrived at the hotel in Shenzhen around 2 a.m. and had to be ready for business beginning at 8:30 that same morning, Zito said.
Louisville Title benefits from trips to China
The Louisville Title Agency has benefited from trips to China, said its president, James Lindsay.
“We have worked hard to become a trusted partner with 5 Lakes Global and have made these visits to China in part to secure the trust of Chinese investors as well as help educate them on the role of the title company in the U.S.,” Lindsay said.
Louisville Title has provided title insurance services for recent Chinese investments in Toledo, including the purchase of the restaurant property at The Docks and Marina District property by Dashing Pacific, the Park Inn Hotel by 5 Lakes Global, and the most recent purchase of the former SeaGate Hotel in Downtown Toledo.
Louisville Title helped close that acquisition for a trust owned by another Chinese investor, Lindsay said. He said they could not name the owner due to the confidentiality of the trust agreement.
Lindsay reported that 5 Lakes Global was involved in getting this investment but not as buyer of the property. The unnamed Chinese investor became interested in the property due to ownership of the Park Inn by 5 Lakes Global.