Aberdeen Mayor Erik Larson and Greater Grays Harbor CEO Dru Garson spent 10 days in China late in March to promote Grays Harbor County as a trade partner and a good target for Chinese investors.
“We gave presentations with general information about the area,” said Garson. “”We gave them a picture of who we are, and listened to them talk about their projects and in what areas they may want to invest in our county.”
This was Greater Grays Harbor’s first trade mission to China. Larson and Garson were invited to participate in the trip by Thurston County’s Economic Development Council, a group that has had success attracting Chinese investors to the Olympia area. Also on the trip were representatives from Mason County, St. Martin’s University and The Evergreen State College.
“I was there to represent the city,” said Larson. “And I was there to support Dru, showing them he had local support.” The city paid for the trip, $5,500 in total, out of Larson’s travel budget. Garson’s trip, which cost the same amount, was paid for by Greater Grays Harbor Inc.
The trip took the group to the cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Hong Kong. Larson spoke to potential Chinese investors about how local government works with businesses.
“I provided some context about how local government works with business development, what we can and can’t give,” he said. “I also provided a description of where we are at as a county and city, and where we want to take it.”
While China is a communist country, in recent years Chinese businesses and investors have created a more open trade policy, which opens doors to not only bringing Chinese businesses and investments here, but to developing trade of the county and region’s products to China.
Garson points to Thurston County as an example of how trade missions like the one he was on can pay off. Recently, Thurston County was able to attract large-scale development projects from China, including two mixed use retirement/residential developments and one residential multi-family development in Lacey, and a major mixed use development in downtown Olympia that will feature an eight story building with combined commercial, retail and residential space.
Garson and Larson met with real estate and investment companies, major corporation CEOs and representatives of the Shanghai Chamber of Commerce and the Shenzhen High-Tech Chamber of Commerce. Garson said this is another step in the process of cultivating relationships with foreign investors who can potentially see the value in Grays Harbor County’s abundant work pool and available manufacturing and commercial properties.
A group of Chinese investors visited the area last November, and Garson said another has been invited to tour Grays Harbor County this November.