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Local officials back from China
1003 Yichun China
A five-person delegation of city and county officials returned Tuesday from a 10-day trip to Hinesville’s sister city in China and brought home more than souvenirs, according to Mayor Jim Thomas.
“I think we accomplished the purpose (of the trip) … and the visit went very well,” Thomas said. “This is all a part of the relationship-building process.”
City Manager Billy Edwards, County Commission Chair John McIver, Liberty County Development Authority CEO Ron Tolley and LCDA global commerce specialist Emily Tsang also traveled with Thomas to Yichun, in the Jiangxi provence of China.
Thomas stressed the trip was bigger than just Hinesville and Liberty County — delegations from Savannah and Brunswick also went along.
From an economic standpoint, Thomas said it was the correct time for coastal Georgia to be in China.
“The real value is, as a group and region, we’ve gone and established our presence in a country that’s a large trading partner,” he said. “The ultimate benefit will be the economic development and possible jobs growth to our region.”
The group visited planning offices and several industrial parks.
“They kept us busy from morning to night, seeing all kinds of things, from the historical to the cultural to the industrial,” Tolley said.
The government has a strong hand in leadership and deciding what industry to be implemented, according to Thomas.
“Basically, what I think we can implement there is they do planning from the top down,” Thomas said. “It’s very precise.”
Thomas said he especially liked how the Yichun government presents a visual perception for the public, precisely outlining courses of action and plans for the Chinese city.
“They do a very intricate planning design,” Thomas said. “We’re going to use that, but we’re going to tie to computer more than anything else.”
Steering planning away from paper and making it a more visual concept also piqued Tolley’s interest.
“They showed great evidence of a high devotion to planning,” Tolley said. “They plan on a grand scale.”
He said he thinks some of that planning is already going into the Tradeport Business Center development.
Since Hinesville is on a significantly smaller scale, Tolley explained it would not be possible to duplicate the infrastructure the delegation saw in Yichun.
However, he hopes to establish long-term relationships and persuade the Chinese to bring more local industry to the Savannah port authority, possibly in the form of a distribution or assembly center.
“They are doing things that hopefully we’ll be able to share with our industries that may expose them to some foreign market that they might not be tapping presently,” Tolley said. 
Yichun city officials met with the mayor and other Liberty County area representatives Nov. 4 to sign the sister city agreement.
“It obligated us to continue our discourse and have reciprocal visits every two years,” Thomas said of the agreement.
The Yichun mayor and a delegation from his province have arranged to visit Hines-ville around April or May.
Tolley said he appreciated his hosts’ hospitality.
“You couldn’t ask for nicer people,” Tolley said. “I was extremely impressed with the quality, the professionalism, the friendliness of the governmental officials that we met with.”
Thomas agreed and said the Yichun officials were very knowledgeable and had researched Hinesville thoroughly.
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