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The original item was published from 7/11/2013 12:20:25 PM to 5/30/2014 12:05:00 AM.

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Posted on: May 29, 2013

[ARCHIVED] Dothan Mayor Mike Schmitz One of Four U.S. Mayors to Complete Historical Trip to China

23,000 miles, 8 days, 7 Chinese cities and 34 meetings marked the beginning
of a new bridge between American South and China, as four US mayors from
diverse cities in North Carolina and Alabama completed a historical trip to
China from May 9th to 17th.

Their goal? -- a deeper understanding of Chinese interest in the US market
and to place their communities at the top of the list for consideration for North
American expansion.

“We hear the media's sensational is stories about China and they hear the
same about the U.S. And yet there is so much to gain for both and so many
ways we can work together,” said Jill Swain, mayor of Huntersville, North

In seven cities -- Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Bazhong, Nanchong,
and Langzhong – the delegation found business leaders and government
officials eager for dialogue. “The reception we received was incredible,” said
Mike Schmitz, mayor of Dothan, Alabama. “Each meeting was more than a
courtesy discussion. Businesses were curious about our communities and
anxious to introduce their businesses to us. Some are already in the process
of looking to locate in the United States. For my city, I wanted to learn as
much as I could about the needs of these companies and learn how we might
meet those needs.”

For one member of the delegation, Greg Norris, this was not his first trip to
China. “We have been in discussions with at least one manufacturer for most
of the past year. While I saw again the many opportunities for US
communities like ours, I think we are making progress on reaching an
agreement with at least one company to build in our community. For me, it
was another meeting with someone who has become a friend.” Norris is
chairman of the Monroe County, Alabama Commission. His community
hosted two Alabama China Partnership Symposium in 2012. The
negotiations in which Norris is engaged are the result of his community’s
initiative with those two events.

Perhaps ironically, the delegation’s first meeting in Asia was not with a
Chinese official, but an American one. Francisco Sánchez, Deputy Secretary
for Trade in the US Department of Commerce, kicked off the group’s
ambitious agenda. Sanchez emphasized the importance of the US-China
relationship, not just politically, but for the world economy. During a
presentation at Hong Kong’s Asia Society, Sanchez made reference to the
mayors’ efforts, calling the group’s visit both “significant” and “meaningful” in
its ability to attract foreign direct investment to the United States. Sánchez
offered his support for their efforts. Sánchez’s initial meeting with the mayors
went well, and continued during a second day of meetings while in Hong Kong.
The mayors also listened to China’s view of the world from high level Chinese
government representatives, including the former CEO of Hong Kong SAR,
Hon. C.H. Tung, and a number of Chinese mayors and other local leaders,
such as the deputy mayor of Nanjing Zeguang Zheng.

A number of top Chinese manufacturers also met with the delegation.
Representatives from industries such as aviation, ship-building, heavy
machinery, railway equipment, 3D printing, metal production and more
attended several receptions hosted by the Asian Manufacturing Association
(“AMA”) for the visiting mayors. SoZo worked with AMA to organize the past
week’s meetings. Located in Beijing, AMA is the authoritative think tank and
chamber of commerce for Chinese manufacturers.

The mayors were impressed by what they saw and heard from the companies
with whom they met. “Clearly, China manufacturing is no long to be
considered only as a low cost manufacturing hub. We have seen some of
the world’s most modern facilities and new technology that we would very
much like to have in our community, said Sheldon Day, mayor of Thomasville,

While this was Day’s first trip to China, he has become experienced in
working with Chinese manufacturing. His city is the location for one of the
largest green field investments by a Chinese manufacturer, Golden Dragon
Precise Copper Tubing Group from Xinxiang. That plant will begin operations
later this year. The delegation visited one of Golden Dragon’s facilities in

In one of the group’s stops, Langzhong, the mayors agreed to a Joint
Cooperation Agreement providing a framework for further discussions, trade
development, and assistance with global development. For example, the
cities agreed to assist one another with further introductions to their provincial
and state government leaders; to work with companies from each of the cities
to utilize available statutory incentives and assistance for investment and job
creation; and to provide a general introductory letter of support recognizing
each other’s city, which may be used by elected officials and their business
development offices, and companies within those cities, to introduce
themselves to companies in both countries. Other agreements may still be

The cities represented on this trip possess strong manufacturing capacity in a
range of industries, including aviation, automotive, alternative energy,
electronics, metal production and fabrication, and wood products. The cities
also have competent work force training and experience with foreign

CEO of SoZo Group Raymond Cheng said: “increasing investment between
US and China is essential for a trusted and sustainable US-China relationship
and both sides should engage more to build up trust and understanding.”
Organized by SoZo Group, the mayors’ trip reflects the company’s mission in
bridging China and US businesses, and expanding communication and
understanding between the two cultures. This trip is part of SoZo’s
commitment to connect the local leaders from the United States and China to
pave a way for a sustainable long-lasting US-China subnational relationship.
SoZo and AMA will host a US-China Manufacturing Symposium in the United
States in November 2013. Many of the companies visited in China have
already indicated their intent to attend, and the US and Chinese government
leaders have expressed a desire to reconnect at the event. An initial US
briefing on the event, including a further discussion on last week’s delegation
visits, will be held in Washington, DC in early June.

The group logged significant miles on the trip on behalf of their communities -
23,000 miles over 8 days, 7 Chinese cities and 34 separate meetings. “This
was intended to be a working trip, and we exceeded our intention,” said Swain.
I am confident my community benefitted not only from the exposure, but also
from the opportunities that presented themselves. Now it’s time to follow up.”

The mayors returned to the US on May 19th.

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