A seven-member delegation from Jacksonville led by Council Member Lad Daniels, At-Large, Group 3, visited three cities in China for the purpose of establishing trade links between China and Northeast Florida businesses. This is a great business opportunity for Jacksonville, as the three cities - Shaoxing, Suzhou and Ningbo - have a combined population of more than 12 million people or roughly the population of the State of Florida. Additionally, all three cities are located near Shanghai, China's commercial capital, and have become emerging first-tier cities with a strong industrial base.
Councilman Daniels commented, 'I was especially impressed in each city with the presence of American investment dollars in local businesses, the high degree of infrastructure development and the emergence of leading-edge industries. Approximately 1/3 of the business investment dollars in these cities are from the U.S. - Northeast Florida needs to be an important part of that mix.'
Further demonstrating the importance of cultivating U.S. and other foreign relations and investment opportunities, each of these three cities has established a foreign relation's office with a 20-50 member staff.
During their visit, Councilman Daniels along with other delegation members, Carol Daniels, Nancy J. Olson, Elinore Fresh, Ray Benson, James Gao and Dr. Chiang Ling Han, met with business and political leaders from each of the three cities. David Steifel, a former Jacksonville resident and Florida State University graduate who has lived in China since 1985, provided invaluable guidance to the group in understanding the Chinese business practices and economy.
The delegation also attended an International Forum in Shaoxing where Councilman Daniels presided over a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Friendship Hall. The hall, located adjacent to the Foreign Affairs Office, will serve as a receiving area for international visitors and the new home of the international cities displays (including Jacksonville's).
The group returned having signed two Friendship Agreements to begin a cultural and commercial exchange with Shaoxing and Suzhou and a Letter of Intent to form a Sister City relationship with the port city of Ningbo. Councilman Daniels said, 'I am pleased with the three signed agreements our delegation brought back. We now have formal relationships in place to make things happen and look forward to helping local businesses become successful in China.'
Ningbo is located south of Shanghai across the sea of Hangzhou. It has a population of 4 million. While it currently takes over four hours to drive from Shanghai to Ningbo, a bridge comparable to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel is being built across the Sea of Hangzhou that will cut the driving time in half. It will be completed in 2007 and will be the longest bridge in the world. Ningbo is China's second largest port and the world's 6th largest with a first-class international deep-water hub port for international ocean-going container transport. In 2003 container throughput exceeded 2.77 million TEUs and over 180 million tons of cargo. The documentation to establish this relationship has been forwarded to Sister Cities International in Washington, DC.
Shaoxing with a population of 4.3 million is located one hour to the west of Ningbo. An important agricultural market town for China producing cotton, silk, rice, grain, and tea, this city is also famous for its rice wine. It is one of the first 24 famous historically cultural cities approved by the China State Council, with this city's origin dating back some 2400 years. It enjoys tourist status, boasting the natural beauty of the Jiangnan rivers and lakes.
Suzhou is one of China's top tourist destinations. It is noted for its Chinese gardens, silk industry and historical and picturesque canal system. It has a population of 5.7 million people and is located one hour west of Shanghai. The delegation visited the 10 year old Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP), one of the largest industrial park in China and is jointly sponsored by the governments of China and Singapore. The park, which covers 25 square miles, is the fastest growing and the most competitive industrial trade zones in the world with over 1300 investments from numerous companies including 52 Fortune 500 companies.
Additional Contact: Nancy Olson, Jacksonville Sister Cities Association (JSCA) - 904 630-1059
(JSCA is a not-for-profit organization whose purpose is to increase international understanding and foster world peace by furthering global communications and exchange at the person-to-person level through city-to-city affiliations. Jacksonville Sister Cities include Nantes, France; Murmansk, Russia; Bahia Blanca, Argentina; Masan, Korea; Port Elizabeth, South Africa; and Yingkou, China.)