Last Thursday evening, the Detroit Chinese Business Association (DCBA) held a “Year of the Horse” New Years’ Gala at Cobo Centers’ brand new Ballroom to celebrate the Chinese New Year in February. Governor Snyder, Chinese dignitaries, a who’s who list of Gala Sponsors and all invited and honored guests met for an evening of fun, networking, enjoyed a wonderful dinner and listened to exciting developments of present and future business opportunities between the Peoples Republic of China and the State of Michigan.
This event brought together politicians, business leaders and non-government organizations under the professional guidance of the DCBA staff and volunteers. It was a celebratory evening yet one of connecting and sharing ideas on how global, national, state and local economic opportunities are rapidly developing for those interested in grasping the vast opportunities that lay before them in the coming months and years. Detroit and Michigan are becoming a place to find and do global business with those who are ready to pursue such opportunities.
The event began with a VIP reception honoring both the Mayor of Hai’an, China, Mr. Widong Lu and Richard D. Snyder, Governor of Michigan. The new Cobo Atrium provided a spectacular setting with a wonderful view of the Detroit River and the City of Windsor in the distance. Invited guests were feted to an open bar, hors doerves as a jazz band provided background music, a Chinese Dragon meandered through the crowd and architectural renderings of present and future green, sustainable buildings were provided by the Detroit Regional Chapter of the US Green Building Council for all to view.
Before dinner was served, the audience had an opportunity to hear from several of the honored guests and sponsors. Mr. Jerry Xu, President of the Chinese Business Association, opened the formal program with greetings to the honored guests and attendees. Following Mr. Xu was Jacques Panis, President of Shinola who expressed his views on starting a successful business in the Motor City and mentioned a few of the exciting things happening right now in Detroit.
The Mayor of Hai’an China, Mr. Widong Lu, also spoke glowingly of the efforts happening now and in the future between our state and China. Mr. Lu congratulated Governor Snyder on his efforts to take mutual business interests to a higher level. Happy New Year greetings were provided and an invitation for all attendees to visit Hai’an soon.
Mr. Ken Barret, CDO of General Motors, spoke of his company’s expanding business interests in China, including new plants, new products, efforts to create greener, healthier communities through their vehicles and over 3 million cars sold in China just last year. Similarly, the audience heard from Mr. Eddie Wang, Board Member of Dimension Development International (DDI), who described their company’s recent purchases of the Detroit Free Press, David Stott and the Clark Lofts Buildings all in the Central Business District of Detroit. From very humble beginnings, DDI is now into commercial real estate development across the globe. KPMG Managing Partner, Heather C. Paquette, also described her company’s keen focus on inbound and outbound Chinese business interests and explained how Detroit’s bankruptcy will be a dynamic model for other cities finding their way through their own economic uncertainty.
Attendees received a special introduction to the Governor, provided completely in Chinese by none other than the Governor’s daughter, Ms. Kelsey Snyder. Ms. Snyder eloquently used her four years studying Chinese in high school to good use. Those who understood the introduction marveled at her skills in their native language.
Governor Snyder spoke about his recent trips to China and how he is working to create the environment for Chinese-Michigan business success on both sides of the Pacific. The Governor also spoke about his disinterest in the legacy of being the Governor when Detroit’s bankruptcy occurred. He also remarked the comeback in Detroit has been happening for years and now it’s the local government’s turn to reinvent itself. The Governor sounded the trumpet that Detroit and Michigan are one of the best places to invest right now.
Going through some of his first term accomplishments, the Governor spoke about creating an automobile office in Shanghai, China which is now the largest auto market on the planet. He also commented he is the most pro-immigration Governor in the US and has received clearance for 50,000 visa waivers over the next several years for foreigners interested in living in Detroit. This could have wide ranging implications on moving our city forward.
The Governor also chuckled over his efforts to get a Panda from China for our own Belle Isle Zoo and how some have taken the idea and created a “Team Panda” campaign. Most importantly, the Governor spoke on the building of trust between our business community and those in China. He remarked those personal relationships and appreciating one another’s culture are the building blocks from where more business will come. He ended his remarks stating Detroit and China can and should both work together to build a better future for the world.
On Friday, February 28th, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson and the Mayor of Hai’an, China signed a memorandum of understanding with potential for future investment, educational opportunities and cultural exchanges between the county and this developing Chinese city of 1 Million residents.
The agreement was signed at a breakfast hosted by Patterson for the Hai’an Mayor and his delegation at the Iroquois Club in Bloomfield Hills. There has been a growing relationship between Oakland County and Hai’an for more than two years as officials have visited one another several times. This important signing acknowledges and memorializes the Chinese national government’s endorsement of the partnership.
One had a sense of the special nature of Thursday evening’s gala and all the good feelings being shared by those in attendance. Many new introductions were made that evening and as more mutual efforts are forthcoming between Michigan and Chinese business communities, better outcomes will be sure to follow in the way of new business for those making efforts to expand such markets.
ROBERT E. MATTLER, Associate Broker, Attorney and LEED AP BD+C, is Director of Green Brokerage at Armada Real Estate Services in West Bloomfield, Michigan. He speaks, writes and blogs about emerging green real estate issues and economic development in Michigan and elsewhere.