Hinesville is going global.
Five city and county officials will travel halfway across the world next month to Hinesville's sister city, Yichun, in the Jiangxi provence of China.
Making the eight- to 10-day trip are Mayor Jim Thomas, City Manager Billy Edwards, Liberty County Development Authority CEO Ron Tolley, LCDA global commerce specialist Emily Tsang and LCDA board member and county commission chairman John McIver.
Thomas took the lead on the sister city project since local officials were invited by Chinese representatives at an Atlanta meeting in February.
Thomas said the group is in process of making travel arrangements.
Each entity — the city, county and LCDA — is financially responsible for its representatives roundtrip airfare.
Plane tickets average $1,100 one way according to Thomas, and were budgeted.
Yichun representatives will take care of the Liberty County group’s lodging and other accommodations.
Tolley said the group is being is trying to keep travel costs as low as possible.
“We’re flying the cheapest means as we can," he said. "Coach is not the most pleasant thing to do, but in order to try to be as economical as possible, that's the approach we decided to take.”
The project is part of a regional effort with Savannah and Brunswick to promote economic growth through international relations.
"This trip is primarily economic," Thomas said. "What I'm hoping to do in our sister city is (establish) those same types of industries and economic ventures in our industrial parks."
Thomas said visiting facilities and sites in China would allow local officials to cultivate new ideas for industries that potentially could work for Hinesville, specifically a distribution center.
Thomas said Hines-ville’s access to shipping routes on Interstates 95
and 16, and its proximity
to the Savannah and Brunswick ports, could work in Liberty County’s favor as the Chinese consider U.S. industrial operations.
"The three cities on the coast of Georgia are all important to Chinese imports and exports," Thomas said.
Tolley said approximately 60 percent of port traffic is international.
"The Savannah port is becoming highly recognized as being a successful port for Oriental traffic," Tolley said.
Thomas said the trip will include socialization, as relation building is an important part of Chinese culture.
"Doing business in China is all about relationship," Thomas said. "You have to learn to get along with them before doing business with them."
Tolley agreed, and said Liberty County’s refusal of Yichun’s invitation to visit may have insinuated disinterest, thus ruining any future ties to the city.
"A lot of economic development is started with the establishment of relationships and relationship building," Tolley said. "We've been hoping for some time to accomplish a relationship with the Chinese and this offers an excellent opportunity to do that."
Officials in the Chinese sister city will visit Hinesville's in the future. Yichun representatives will pay for their own flights, but Liberty County, Hinesville and LCDA will be responsible for the group’s accommodations.
Tolley said he feels
the trip is a doorway to future economic development and potential business investments — an opportunity that should not be missed.
Gov. Sonny Perdue opened the Georgia Beijing Business Advisory Center earlier this year.