| Nov 04, 2013
By Jorge Fernandez, Vice President of Global Commerce, Metro Atlanta Chamber
Metro Atlanta Chamber Global Commerce Vice President Jorge Fernandez is on a month-long trip to China to teach at China Jiliang University and to continue building valuable business relationships with key Chinese partners. Fernandez is focusing his teachings on helping students understand how to be successful in a global marketplace, along with the attributes, attitudes, skills, resources and networks needed to drive success in today’s international environment. Each week, Fernandez is blogging about his experiences inside the classroom and sharing his insights on the ever-important Chinese market. For week four, he shares his perspectives on economic development in China.
This week’s installment of my conversations from China will shift topics a bit. This week’s perspective is not so much about the university experience I have been conveying, but more on economic development objectives that I am simultaneously pursuing while here.
But, before I do that, I have just a few updates from class. I have not lost any students yet! Enrollment is still the same. The department is awed by this. As suspected, the cartoons must be doing the trick! Throughout this process, I have tried to expand the students’ horizons by exposing them to sources outside of the classroom.
This week, our own Henry Yu of Fifth Third Bank in Georgia and Metro Atlanta Chamber Global Commerce Council member, made a cameo appearance in class. He talked to the students about the important role service providers play when companies invest beyond their borders and, specifically, about financial institutions. He also talked about the relationship between supply chain investments and the banking industry. During that same class, the students were treated to an appearance by Gabriel Luis, a member of Atlanta’s famed “young and restless” demographic, which represents our cities thriving up-and-comer generation. Luis is a 27-year-old of Cuban-Chinese descent and works with a Chinese education company. He is a graduate of Emory University and now lives in Hangzhou, China.
I think students enjoyed relating to a member of the “young and restless” generation. He was a rather welcome change from their professor crowd of “the old and the tired!” One interesting part of all of this is that, just like the Global Commerce Council (GCC) Skype session we held last week, this special class took place at 10am on a Sunday morning with a great turn out! This is what it’s all about- instilling in these young minds the need for building a collaborative global network in order to succeed. It was a lot of fun to watch the dynamics. Well, back to economic development.
So, going from class to class, I have arranged my schedule to allow time off campus so I can pursue leads and seek to maintain “guanxi” with institutions and companies we have visited on previous trips to China. Some of this “guanxi” was started by other members of MAC’s staff, others by other GCC members traveling through China. Additionally, partners such as the City of Atlanta, the Georgia Department of Economic Development and Georgia Power were involved.
All I am doing is carrying the torch this time for our partners and associates to keep the momentum going on this ongoing process of recruitment. As such, I carried myself onto a two-hour flight to Beijing to meet with several prospects we have been nurturing for a while, hoping to move the ball forward a few yards in order to get to the goal of landing these company in Atlanta.
I also met with the China Center for the Promotion and Development of SMEs (small to mid-sized enterprises), an association designed to assist Chinese SMEs grow in international markets. This organization serves as a great source of leads and as a network for our companies that might want to explore the Chinese market. Their mission is very similar to that of MAC’s.
In Beijing, I also joined a successful Atlanta-based company negotiating a deal with a Chinese company. I hope I was part of a successful bid! We should know soon. It was fun and informative to be part of this process. I appreciate the opportunity.
Time went quickly. On a clear, blue-sky Saturday morning in Beijing, I embarked on a six-hour trip back ‘home’ on China’s CRH bullet train – a journey that just a few years back could have taken 22 hours! We traversed the mileage at just over 400km/hr, crossing a vast country-side territory and stopping in five cities in between. The trip allowed me to witness remnants of old rural China mixed with glittering city skylines of tertiary cities that would dwarf our own in Atlanta. These cities are interlaced with eight line super highways and a string of cell towers between them. I never had a dropped call or internet service interruption on the entire journey. What a transformation in a few years, albeit at a price.
No sooner had we departed Beijing, when the blue skies gave way to visions of the sun attempting to peek through the over-arching haze and smog. This being the topic in the news every day, smog overtakes cities, choking its population. Cleaning the air will be a slow process, but awareness and a mandate to eliminate dependency on coal and fossil fuel is driving action from the government and being demanded by the people. I was glad to pull into the Hangzhou East station where the sky was blue again.
Back at ‘home’ I reacquainted with old friends at the Zhejiang China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) who had visited Atlanta on several occasions. MAC has a cooperation agreement with them. This organization graciously hosted Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed during his visit to Hangzhou in 2012. In fact, the Zhejiang CCPIT was instrumental, in conjunction with Southern Polytechnic State University in Atlanta, with my involvement at Jiliang University.
While being here I have done my part to deliver on our MAC Forward Atlanta strategy of continuing our recruitment efforts and connecting with innovation centers by meeting with several Hangzhou companies that want to know about Atlanta. I was particularly impressed by “Smart City,” an intelligent internet industrial park dedicated to an innovation platform for cloud computing and cluster infrastructure- supporting industry. This is being developed in partnership with a major U..S technology company.
I also had the opportunity to conduct a business seminar at the Hangzhou Chamber of Commerce about our story on Atlanta and meet with local companies that already call Atlanta home. UN Forklift, for example, which has its U.S. headquarters in McDonough in Henry County, and with Chinese organizations such as the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs (SAFEA), a China Central Government agency in Gwinnett County. Looking ahead, I am sure I will enjoy the opportunity to share with the Atlanta Ballet, which will be performing at the Chinese Opera Theater in Beijing the first week of November. What a great way to showcase our home city! By the way, we were on local TV news as the twin pandas at the Atlanta Zoo celebrated their 100 days right-of-passage ceremony!
I am very grateful for the opportunity to be here and I don’t take it for granted. That is why, notwithstanding my new-found enjoyment of sharing my business experience with these young students, delivering on a “guanxi” ROI about growing our Chinese business connections with Atlanta’s industry clusters is forefront in my routine while in China. In the meantime, back to the classroom!