Eight delegates from Liberty County will join representatives from the port cities of Savannah and Brunswick on an economic development mission to China next month. This is the city’s second trip to the Jiangxi province of south central China.
The city of Hinesville made its first trip to China in 2008, and representatives from Hinesville’s sister city — Yichun — visited Liberty County on Dec. 8, 2009.
City of Hinesville delegates include Mayor Jim Thomas, city manager Billy Edwards, public relations manager Krystal Britton and global commerce consultant Emily Tsang. Liberty County Board of Commissioners Chairman John McIver and Liberty County Development Authority CEO Ron Tolley, along with KC Brothers Construction owners James Rim and Wu Ni, will accompany them. In addition to the official Hinesville delegation, the mayor’s wife, Claudia Thomas, will travel to China as a private citizen and will pay her own way, Britton said.
“We will be traveling to China to visit out sister cities Sept. 19 -29,” Britton said. “The purpose of the sister city relationship is primarily economic, but we are also pursuing cultural and educational exchanges.”
She said the delegation will visit Yichun for two and a half days “to discuss the next steps in our sister city relationship” and will attend the Central China Global Commerce Expo in Nanchang, China for three days.
“We also wish to make contacts at the expo that may lead to new industry in the area,” Britton said.
Thomas said Hinesville, Brunswick and Savannah are working on an intergovernmental agreement to recruit Chinese businesses to coastal Georgia. The mayor said they are marketing the region to foreign investors. He pointed out two Chinese-owned factories have located to the neighboring state of South Carolina in the past three years.
“They wanted us to come to their business expo,” Thomas said. “(The expo) includes six provinces in central china; those six provinces are interested in getting businesses from our region into central china and are interested in doing business with us in the U.S.”
“We will be telling (the Chinese) that Liberty County is very open to foreign investment and has good experience with foreign investment,” Tolley said. “Seventy percent of our employment among our manufacturers and in our industrial parks is employment that’s been created by foreign firms.”
Tolley, who also travelled with city officials to China two years ago, said he enjoyed seeing China’s centralized planning, industries and parks.
“It was wonderful to see how they organize their economic development (projects) in comparison to ours – they are in a much grander scale and much quicker than we are as far as working through a decision and immediately implementing it,” he said.
Britton said in the future the city plans to visit its sister city Yichun on even years and Yichun officials will visit Hinesville on odd years. She added the city will budget for travel to China this upcoming budget year.
The city’s total administration travel budget for fiscal year 2010 is $50,000, according to cityofhinesville.org. Britton said in an e-mail Monday she did not have a final cost estimate for the upcoming trip because travel plans had not been finalized.
At a regular city council meeting last week, Thomas said the city will only pay travel expenses for the four city representatives. Tolley and McIver confirmed the authority and the county, respectively, will pay their travel expenses. Local businessmen Rim and Ni will pay “out of their own pockets,” the mayor said.