The chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors took a trip to China recently in hopes of bringing a Chinese company to the county.
Board Chairman Corey A. Stewart (R-At Large) said in an interview that it was the first official trip to China by an elected Prince William official representing the county, and marks the beginning of what he hopes will be a long-term relationship with business and government leaders there.
The trip was spearheaded by officials from George Mason University and paid for by Hu Business International Group, a commercial real estate firm that has headquarters in New York and Shanghai. No county funds were used for the trip, Stewart said.
Stewart said he hadn’t publicized the trip previously because he wasn’t sure what to expect and didn’t want to make promises he couldn’t keep.
“I would rather speak with results,” he said. The seven-day trip, from Aug. 24 to 31, was successful in terms of meetings with a host of companies and government officials that began in Shanghai, Stewart said. The trip will likely result in a “sister city” relationship with the port city of Jinzhou, which has a population of more than 3 million, in western China.
The main thrust of the trip, though, was economic development and the potential of Chinese business interests having an American presence in Prince William. Stewart was joined by the county’s director of economic development Jeffrey Kaczmarek; a George Mason dean and chairman of the Prince William County Economic Development Alliance, an economic development arm of the county, William Reeder; and Prince William developer Bob Buchanan.
George Mason and Hu Business helped arrange meetings in several areas across the country with both government leaders and business executives, Kaczmarek and Stewart said.
Kaczmarek said, in China, there is a great deal of deference paid to government officials, and Stewart’s presence helped the group secure meetings and start building relationships. They declined to name specific companies they met with, but said they hope to arrange a trip for business and government officials to Prince William in the future.
“If we follow up with it correctly it can be very successful because they are looking for a place in America to invest and … people whom they trust,” Stewart said. “I’m convinced this is the beginning of a very long and productive relationship.”
Stewart and Kaczmarek believe that the face-to-face overtures were key in potentially bringing in a Chinese firm.
George Mason’s Prince William campus is located at Innovation@PrinceWilliam, the county’s research and development park where businesses have located in part to tap into the university’s resources.