Toledo Mayor Mike Bell
THE BLADE/IGNAZIO MESSINA
BEIJING — Mayor Mike Bell participated Monday in the first steps toward a new relationship with the city of Mudanjiang and oversaw the opening of a new Regional Growth Partnership office in Beijing.
Mr. Bell and Mudanjiang Vice Mayor Zhu Naizhen met during a “cooperation forum” designed to bring the two cities closer.
Mudanjiang, a coastal city with a vast forest area and a mountain region near the China border with Russia, is a popular place for tourists and has 2.7 million people — much larger than Toledo but small by Chinese standards.
A web of relationships and events ultimately brought the two delegations together Monday in a hotel conference room in Beijing on Day Five of Mr. Bell’s trade mission to China.
In short, the RGP opened its second Chinese office in space donated by Li ZhenGou, the chairman of YouBo Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. Mr Li, who visited Toledo just three weeks ago, is pursuing a pharmaceutical research and development deal with the University of Toledo Medical Center, the former Medical College of Ohio.
Since he is from Mudanjiang, Mr. Li arranged the forum between the two sides.
“The reason we are here in China, in Beijing, is to be able to market our city as a point of location for business as well as establish relationships in China to be able to grow our economic development machines,” Mr. Bell said. “Our city is open and it all starts with sitting in this room and staring eye-to-eye as government officials and starting to get things done.”
With the exception of Mr. Zhu’s remarks, which were translated by a member of his group, the entire exchange was translated by Simon Guo, a business intermediary who was named Monday as “RGP China” president by Dean Monske, the agency’s chief executive. Mr. Guo played down his expanding role as the link between Toledo officials and businesses, calling himself “only a translator.”
The first RGP office was opened last week in Shenzhen.
Before Mr. Bell took his turn to talk about Toledo, he showed the video prepared for the investor meetings that have been ongoing since he arrived in Shenzhen on the first day of his trip — showing aspects of the city such as West Toledo homes, which invoked a nod and smile from the Chinese vice mayor.
After the meeting, Mr. Bell exchanged gifts with Mr. Zhu. The mayor received a carving that can be placed in ink to stamp his name. In return, Mr. Bell gave Mr. Zhu blown glass flowers made by a local Toledo artist and purchased at the Toledo Museum of Art.
The mayor’s morning also included a meeting set up by Gov. John Kasich with a Chinese investor, whom Mr. Bell said he could not name.
Beijing is 12 hours ahead of Toledo.