FAIRLAWN: Mayor Bill Roth is making his second business venture trip to China this week to try to attract businesses to locate in Northeast Ohio.
The mayor leaves Friday for a 10-day visit. His last visit to China was in February.
In addition to Roth, Fairlawn Council Vice President Bryan Nace and possibly two other city officials will make the trip.
Roth and Nace will pay their own travel and hotel expenses. Fairlawn is paying for the city travel team’s international phone and computer services.
Ravenna Mayor Joe Bica had planned to join the group, but had a scheduling conflict. He said he plans to follow up on contacts the group makes on this trip when he goes to China in October for another business trip.
“We’re going to represent the Mayors Association of Portage, Summit and Stark counties,” Roth said. “Our goal is to get Chinese investors interested in Northeast Ohio and hopefully get some of those business people to come over here. We believe we have as much opportunity as anybody else to recruit business.”
He said they aren’t going to attract businesses overnight.
“It takes several visits to establish and build relationships,” Roth said. “We have to make them realize we are really serious about getting their business.” The main destination of the visit is Xiamen, where there is a major trade show. They will spend three days there.
“It’s a major investor conference,” Roth said. “The attendees are Chinese millionaires who have received permission from the Chinese government to invest their money overseas.”
Other cities on the agenda to visit are Shenyang, Fushun, Shanghai and Changzhou. Those meetings will be with government officials and businessmen.
Roth said some of the meetings will be follow-up visits from the last China visit, which was also a 10-day venture.
Roth and his traveling party have no control over the agenda. The arrangements are being made with the help of Louis Berroteran, executive director of the Mayors Association, and the Akron-based law firm of Brennan, Manna & Diamond.
The law firm also has an office in Shanghai and is in a position to help Northeast Ohio municipalities and companies to establish an international presence. Local contact Shanghai Managing Partner John Tang is a former resident of Summit County who runs the Chinese firm.
Nace, who said he has always been curious about China on a personal level, sees the trip as an opportunity to attract some interest in Summit County, and in particular Ridgewood Road, the city’s last piece of prime real estate.
“The idea is to raise some recognition that we have good infrastructure here and a good place to invest, whether it’s opening a United States headquarters or building a plant or opening an office research facility,” Nace said.
Roth said any industry would be a boost for the area, including manufacturing, shipping and receiving. There were thousands of exhibitors at the same trade fair last year, but little representation from the U.S.
“Out of thousands, the U.S. had only about eight booths,” Nace said. “We ought to have some representation there so people know where we are.”
The University of Akron has asked the officials to promote some of their programs during their visit. They will be distributing literature. UA hopes to expand its efforts to attract Chinese instructors and to reinforce the programs that already exist. The university also wants to attract Chinese students to attend some of UA’s specialty programs.
“The University of Akron is already heavily involved over there, but we may be able to offer them some [introductions] to areas and people they haven’t been able to get to, so hopefully we can promote some kind of cooperation with the university and industry and that would be a win-win for Summit County,” Nace said.
Marilyn Miller can be reached at 330-996-3098 or email@example.com.