Toledo Mayor Mike Bell, with Amy Chang, a member of the Toledo Symphony interpreting, speaks at the 5 Lakes Global International Economic Forum.
THE BLADE/ANDY MORRISON
Toledo Mayor Mike Bell and an economic development delegation are to return to China in mid-November for another trade mission, promoting Toledo at the China Hi-Tech Fair Nov. 16-21 in Shenzhen.
It will mark the fourth trade mission since 2010 for the mayor and Toledo officials, but during a break Tuesday at the 5 Lakes Global Economic Forum being held downtown at the Park Inn, the mayor explained that maintaining a relationship with Chinese officials he has already met is a key to future investment in Toledo by Chinese investors.
“There are two different principles at work. For Americans, it’s sign a deal now,” Mr. Bell said. But the Chinese are looking for someone they can “grow into a relationship,” he added.
Americans tend to look at the short term, while the Chinese look at the long term in their business deals, the mayor said.
That is why the Dashing Pacific Group Ltd., a group of Chinese investors who bought the Marina District project in downtown Toledo, have yet to build anything on the site despite local pressures for them to do so.
“With Dashing Pacific, people keep asking why haven’t they built anything yet,” Mr. Bell said. “But long-term is long-term. It’s not sustainable yet.”
If people want short-term results, the mayor said people should look no further than the $2.15 million Dashing Pacific paid for The Docks entertainment complex on the Maumee River or the $3.8 million the company paid for the Marina District land. “When they pay in cash, that’s something in the short-term,” he said.
The mayor said when the Chinese come here, they expect reciprocation, which is why it is important for Toledo officials to return to the Hi-Tech Fair and to renew acquaintances made here this week at the economic forum. Growing the relationship may pay off big in the long-term, he added.
“What if they created an industrial auto park here that makes the things that people already make here?” the mayor said. “The fact is that Chinese [auto] companies are coming to this country. The question is: Do we want them to be in the North or in the South?”
Mr. Bell said where those companies locate may end up being a product of who has established long-term relationships. “The ability to start a company with people friendly to what you want to do is important. If you make a mistake, they still want to move forward with you,” he said.
Tom Brady, chairman and chief executive officer of Plastic Technologies Inc. in Holland, who is attending the forum, echoed the mayor’s comments.
Plastic Technologies “has done a lot of business with China and Japan. One of the things you do learn very early on is the personal relationship is 80 percent of really developing a business relationship,” Mr. Brady said.
“The American way is: I’ve got a deal for you, let’s sign it. That’s not the way it is done in China,” he added.