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Published: Monday, 9/3/2012

Chinese community leader promotes Toledo as global city

Hewen Slak Hewen Slak

For many members in the Chinese Association of Greater Toledo and Chinese Church Alliance, Hewen Slak, or Huiwen Luo, is one of the most familiar names in the community.

"I want to make Toledo a global city," said Mrs. Slak, pointing to a column that she wrote for a Chinese newspaper. In the column, Mrs. Slak shared her experience in Toledo and her vision for the city.

Born and raised in Taiwan, Mrs. Slak came to Toledo 36 years ago. She received a master’s of business administration from the University of Toledo, and then worked in various posts in companies including Ford Motor Co. and what was then Dana Corp.

But outside of her jobs, Mrs. Slak has a deep passion for promoting China-Toledo relations. As a former president of the Chinese Association, Mrs. Slak devoted much of her time and energy to building a strong Chinese and Chinese-American community.

"For a long time in the 1990s, I tried to find someone to take over and build the association, but it was hard to find someone," she said. "There was not a strong communal mind-set. I am so happy to see that the community is much more united now."

In 2006-2007, after leaving her post at Ford, Mrs. Slak was the executive secretary at Toledo Sister Cities, a nonprofit organization.

"I have a strong belief that Chinese and Chinese-Americans should give back to the local community," she said.

Inspired by her friends Dan Johnson, a former president at the University of Toledo, and Allan Block, chairman of Block Communications Inc., parent company of The Blade, Ms. Slak wanted to do something to promote China-Toledo relations.

In 2008, she set up the Toledo China Center to promote exchange between China and Toledo on education, culture, and trade, through collaborating with local high schools, universities, and businesses.

"Toledo has so much potential, and now the Chinese have the money," she said. "The world has become a global village today. The Five Lakes Global Economic Forum is a good example of how to take advantage of resources from both sides."

Mrs. Slak said that her new project is to make a DVD that will market Toledo to the world.

Having traveled to more than 100 countries, she said she hoped to become a "global citizen." "It's like cherry-picking. I want to pick the best part of each culture," she said.

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