County Executive Ike Leggett returned recently from a 10-day, 4-city trip to China aimed at advancing Chinese jobs and investment in the County and opening doors for County businesses there, as well as establishing a “Sister City” relationship with the city of Xi’an, with eight million residents and home to the famous Terra Cotta Army.
Packed with visits to businesses and high-tech centers, educational institutions and hospitals, as well as government meetings, the delegation’s itinerary reflected the mission’s strong focus on education and business development. Multi-level partnerships were developed on education, healthcare, and business fronts.
“I was very pleased with the Mission,” said County Executive Leggett. “It will result in more jobs and investment in Montgomery County and more business for County companies in China. Our County is competing, especially in biotechnology and health sciences, with other states, cities, and counties that are also looking to tap into the Chinese market. For a tiny investment, we have made a significant impact.”
The visit was featured prominently in The China Daily, the official English newspaper of all China: http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/epaper/2013-09/24/content_16989823.htm.
Sponsors of this mission trip included Marriott International, Choice Hotels International, the Mid-Atlantic Petroleum, US Pharmacopeia, the Chinese Biopharmaceutical Association, and the Maryland China Business Council. Law firms Shulman Rogers and Linowes and Blocher sponsored two information sessions prior to the trip.
All Montgomery County government employees on the delegation, including the County Executive, paid all their own expenses for the Mission and took vacation time, except for Department of Economic Development director Steve Silverman, Mission lead organizer Lily Qi, Director of Special Projects in the Office of the County Executive, and a bilingual assistant. The total for travel, food, and lodging costs paid by Montgomery County was $7,500.
“It was a privilege to join the delegation to Xi’an,” said Mary D. Kane, President and CEO of Sister Cities International. “We’re happy to see Montgomery County and Xi’an move towards formalizing a sister city relationship. This relationship will surely grow and strengthen cultural, educational, business, and trade exchanges between the two communities.”
In each of the cities visited—Pudong (the largest district in Shanghai), Xi’an, Benxi and the Gu’an County (outside of Beijing), the delegation met with the highest level of government officials in addition to business, education and hospital executives. Pudong, a city of five million residents, accounts 25 percent of Shanghai’s gross domestic product and 50 percent of its trade. It is a high-tech, “new economy,” and financial center. County Executive Leggett signed a Memorandum of Understanding to expand even further County partnerships with Pudong in life sciences investment and research and development.
In Xi’an, the ancient capital of 13 Chinese dynasties with over 3,000 years of civilization includes a High-Tech Industries Development Zone covering nearly 120 square miles with 16,800 companies, including a recent $7 billion Samsung microchip plant. Xi’an has 102 institutions of higher education. Benxi, in northeast China near Shenyang, has one million residents and is developing a $16 billion “China Medicine Capital”—a national bio-pharmaceutical science and technology industry base.
An initial and immediate result was the commitment from Beijing-based China Fortune Land Development (CFLD) to make a significant financial investment into the Rockville-based public-private partnership, BioHealth Innovation, Inc. (BHI), established by Leggett.
The investment would fund two BHI programs--an entrepreneur-in-residence position focusing on connecting the Central Maryland region’s advanced medical technologies with China’s market demand and a new Health IT Accelerator in Montgomery County.
Richard Bendis, President and CEO of BHI, went to Beijing to meet with Chairman Wang Wenxue of CFLD to execute this financial Memorandum of Understanding.
“I am enthusiastic to work in partnership with CFLD and Chairman Wang’s team to implement two new important programs that will further develop the Montgomery County innovation ecosystem. CFLD is a progressive and professional organization which will be an excellent partner for BHI and the County.”
“The activities at Shanghai, Xi'an and Beijing raised Montgomery County's standing significantly to those local governments, business communities and general public,” said Yingxian Xiao, CEO of Potomac Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Executive Director of Chinese Biopharmaceutical Association - USA. “This mission trip will bring investment and other collaborative efforts from China to Montgomery County in general, to BHI and the two parks in particular.”
"Participating in the Montgomery County China Mission was very beneficial to US-Asia Links,” said George Dang, CEO of US-Asia Links LLC. “It gave the opportunity to promote our company to the vast market in Shanghai and Xi'an China. The investments in this trip were worth every dollar. I am confident the contacts we made from this trip will bring business to Montgomery County."
“This trip helped us discover many opportunities in different parts of China related to education, research, and business,” added Elaine Amir, Executive Director of Johns Hopkins Montgomery County. “It was also an eye-opening experience to see how significant the sister cities program is.”
"I joined the economic development mission, which was remarkably successful, because I want our county to be more competitive in a global economy,” said Councilmember Hans Riemer. “With careful preparation by county staff and our strong Chinese American community, we were able to forge partnerships with companies in China's rapidly growing tech sectors. My big take away is that our strong Chinese American community is a great strategic asset for Montgomery County."
“The world has come to Montgomery County and now Montgomery County is going global,” said Mission lead organizer Lily Qi. “As the success of this trip shows, having a large, engaged, globally-connected community is one of our key strategic economic advantages.”
"The 2013 Montgomery County Mission to China was an unqualified success,” said Mike Violette of the Maryland-China Business Council and Washington Labs and American Certification Body. “The commitment to building relations, supporting international business and forging new ties with Chinese officials and business leaders will yield lasting results. As a business person keen to expand operations in China, I believe the Mission's objectives fit squarely with ours: build lasting ties that create mutual benefits. The Montgomery County leadership is to be congratulated for recognizing the value of enhancing these connections, seizing opportunities for additional cooperation and enhancing the critical role of business and personal exchange across the Pacific."
Just some highlights of business development activities include:
• Four business roundtables in Shanghai, Xi’an and Benxi with companies and economic development leaders on both sides introducing opportunities and forging new partnerships;
• Visits to China’s established and emerging biotech hubs—the Zhangjiang Hi-tech Park in Pudong (Shanghai) and the Zhongguancun Hi-tech Park as well as the emerging hubs such as the Peptide Valley in Gu’an County of Hebei Province and the China Medicine Capital in Benxi (Liaoning Province).
• Visits to the United Family Hospital in Shanghai developed by the Bethesda-based Chindex and the Benxi Central Hospital, which was connected with Johns Hopkins International and the Washington Adventist Hospital – and a significant start on discussions between Johns Hopkins, the Benxi Hospital, and the China Medical University; and a visit to Xi’an public housing development project and discussion of affordable housing models in China.
• A business recognition dinner in Shanghai to promote Montgomery County as a destination for businesses, investors and visitors and to celebrate the success of Montgomery County-based businesses in China, including such global companies as Marriott International, Discovery Communications, Chindex International, Choice Hotels International, the Washington Labs, and several life sciences companies who were able to join us in China, including Aeras, United Therapeutics, Sirnomics, US Pharmacopeia, BioHealth Innovation and the Chinese Biopharmaceutical Association;
Highlights of education activities, brokered by the Office of the County Executive, included interchange between Montgomery County’s education delegation leaders with their counterparts:
• MCPS delegation’s visits to public schools in Pudong and Xi’an and Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Churchill High School and its sister school, the Xi’an No. 1 Middle School;
• Meetings between the Universities at Shady Grove with the Xi’an Jiaotong University and the Northwest University, two top universities known for their strong STEM programs;
• Montgomery College delegation’s visit to the Xi’an University and discussion on several programmatic areas. The Montgomery College team, led by President Dr. DeRionne Pollard, visited the Xi’an University and signed an MOU to form the broad framework for a partnership between the two institutions. Thanks to both the agreement and a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the College’s Global Humanities Institute plans to send 15 faculty members and administrators to Xi’an in 2017. While there, the faculty will have the chance to present on the status of the humanities discipline, as well as to study innovative ways to teach humanities courses and create seminars for cross-disciplinary faculty members in the relevance of the humanities in higher education and in culture. Additional possibilities for collaboration may include study abroad opportunities for students, collaborative virtual online seminars or courses, visiting faculty arrangements, and more.
"This trip afforded us the opportunity to explore and expand partnerships that will help broaden opportunities for our students to be globally competitive so they can thrive in their future,” said Dr. Joshua Starr, Superintendent of the Montgomery County Public Schools. “I appreciated the opportunity to be a part of the Montgomery County delegation to China."
“Montgomery County is a talent magnet for people from every corner of the globe. One-third of our million people were born in other countries. Our Sister Cities program is a great way to connect to the cultures and countries of origin of our neighbors,” explained Director of Community Partnerships Bruce Adams. “Xi’an, with its extraordinary history, strong commitment to education, and bright future, is a perfect Sister City for Montgomery County.” County Executive Ike Leggett signed Montgomery County’s first Sister City agreement in July of 2011 with Morazan, El Salvador and the second Sister City agreement in September of 2012 with Gondar, Ethiopia.
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