Patriotism may be sweeping Toledo this weekend, but the groundbreaking ceremony at the Marina District Saturday was more focused on celebrating the connection between two very different cultures.
Chinese investment firm Dashing Pacific Group Ltd. completed its $3.8 million purchase of the Marina District when Mayor Mike Bell signed off on the sale Saturday. Wu Kin Hung and Yuan Xiaohong, the two members of Dashing Pacific, purchased the 69-acre piece of land.
"It's a great day in the city of Toledo," Mayor Bell said. "This day is a pivotal keystone.".
Saturday's ground-breaking ceremony brought together Toledo community members, Toledo City Council members, and Chinese investors and relatives, among others.
The investors have not announced exact plans for the development but said work will begin soon. Ms. Yuan said regulations and procedures could slow the process.
"We want to get started as fast as we can," she said. "From our standpoint, we want to do it quick."
The ceremony wove together customs from both American and Chinese cultures, including Ms. Yuan's traditional Chinese dedication of a rock, which she said symbolizes the investors' commitment to the city of Toledo and its future.
"The rock symbolizes the steadiness of our friendship," Ms. Yuan said. "We will give the rock to Lucas, the elephant that was just born at the Toledo Zoo."
Friendly jokes between Mayor Bell and the Chinese investors throughout the ceremony demonstrated that successful business deals depend on building rapport.
"It's all about communicating," Mr. Bell said.
Simon Guo was the translator for the investors during the mayor's recent trip to China and throughout the negotiations. The investors almost backed out, but the friendly nature of Mayor Bell and his delegation was what kept them in the deal, Mr. Guo said. "Chinese culture is all about relationships," he said.
Ms. Yuan said she was impressed with Mayor Bell's commitment to the city.
Jessica Xie, vice president of the Hylant Group, traveled with the group to China in May. She said the development will be beneficial both to Chinese investors and the city.
"For the Chinese investors, Toledo would be considered a good place to invest," she said. "They see the assets. The U.S. is a safe harbor. It has been seen as a country full of freedom."
Ms. Xie said she hopes this investment will spur a snowball effect for Chinese investment in the United States. She said business between two countries often is the first step to improving relations between them.
"As business grows, other areas will follow," she said.
Former Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, who pushed development of the area until his final days in office, said he was excited to see his work finally come to fruition.
"It was almost 12 years ago that I stood on this exact same spot," he said.
He said the upcoming developments will give Toledo a "new image" and "a new perspective."
Gerry Daves, who works for Jones-Hamilton Co., showed up at the ceremony with miniature Chinese and American flags tucked into the band of his straw hat.
"We do a lot of business in China. I do the sales to China," Mr. Daves of Rossford said. "I think it will be a great partnership."
The development promises to help revive Toledo's economy in more ways than one, some said Saturday.
"It's going to bring a lot of jobs to our area," said Joe Cousino, president of the Northwest Ohio Building Trades Council and business agent for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 8 in Rossford.
"This will put some of our guys to work," he said. "The electricians in the building are looking forward to working with the Chinese in whatever development they do down here."
Bill Rudolph, chairman of Rudolph/Libbe Cos., has an agreement with Dashing Pacific to be the contractor on the $200 million to $300 million project.
Dashing Pacific was a sponsor of this year's three-day Red, White, KABOOM event downtown and is the newest member of the Toledo Chamber of Commerce.
Contact Sara Felsenstein at: email@example.com or 419-724-6050.