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LVEDC Hosts Chinese Government Officials to Discuss Foreign Direct Investment

By Colin McEvoy on November 13, 2017

The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) hosted members of China’s Ministry of Commerce last week to discuss foreign direct investment in the Lehigh Valley and how the organization can help Chinese companies establish future operations in the region.

A half dozen Chinese officials attended the Nov. 8 visit, during which they discussed the advantages for overseas companies investing in the Lehigh Valley, foreign investment trends from recent years, and regional initiatives or policies available to attract Chinese companies.

In contrast to the United States, the Chinese government has encouraged the offshoring of manufacturing facilities in other countries, and the Lehigh Valley could be well positioned to assist Chinese companies seeking to establish overseas operations.

“We’ve been very active in international recruitment as the significance of foreign direct investment in the Lehigh Valley has grown in recent years,” said Don Cunningham, LVEDC President and CEO. “The Lehigh Valley’s central location in the East Coast market and availability of talent and technical support from educational institutions are among the attractive assets for overseas companies looking to establish U.S. operations.”

The Ministry of Commerce is responsible for formulating the strategies, guidelines, and policies for developing domestic and foreign trade, international economic cooperation, and overseas investment for Chinese companies.

The Nov. 8 meeting included discussions about how LVEDC could help prospective Chinese companies find land, deal with regulatory issues, and connect them with regional partners. In turn, the ministry gave insight into what Chinese companies are looking for when making foreign direct investment decisions.

LVEDC officials also discussed how the organization markets the Lehigh Valley to companies outside the United States, and distributed copies of its international marketing brochures, which are available in Mandarin Chinese, as well as eight other languages.

The Ministry of Commerce officials began the day with a visit to Fuling Plastics, China’s largest manufacturer of plastic tableware and kitchenware, which operates an 88,000 square-foot facility in Upper Macungie Township.

Gilbert Lee, Chief Financial Officer at Fuling Global, Inc., said that, much like the immigration patterns of people, internationally-based companies are often most comfortable finding a place in the American market in proximity to companies from their home countries.

“Having a successful Chinese company already here makes them more comfortable in investing,” Lee said. “I thought the visit was very productive. We answered a lot of their questions and gave them a very good impression of the Lehigh Valley.”

In 2014, Fuling Plastics chose the Lehigh Valley for its first U.S. manufacturing facility, which also marked the first time a Chinese manufacturing company has established a facility in the state of Pennsylvania. The $21.3 million project was expected to create 75 jobs.

Fuling Plastics chose the Lehigh Valley after considering possible locations in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey and four different sites in Pennsylvania.

Company officials said they ultimately chose the Lehigh Valley because of its central location, convenient transportation, strong support network, public security, and the cooperation of local officials in making the project happen.

About one-third of LVEDC’s current prospects are from outside the country, and 42 percent of the Lehigh Valley’s major business attraction and expansion projects in 2015 were international companies, including Safran, Primark, SunOpta, Nihon Kohden, and others.

The Ministry of Commerce representatives who attended the Nov. 8 meeting included Wang Dongtang, Deputy Director General of Foreign Trade; Zhao Hong, Director of Foreign Trade; Pan Ying, Deputy Director of Foreign Trade; and Fang Hao, Deputy Director of American & Oceanian Affairs.

Also in attendance were Zhang Haiyuan and Guangyu Bai, both of the Institute of International Trade at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation.

Don Cunningham: Growing Farmers is a Necessary Part of the Economy

This column, written by LVEDC President and CEO Don Cunningham, originally appeared in The Morning Call and on the newspaper's website on November 8, 2017. (Click here to [...]

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