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Published: Friday, 11/9/2012 - Updated: 1 year ago

Bell to travel to China; TPS officials on separate trip as part of language program

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo Mayor Mike Bell leaves next week for his fourth trade mission to China, and Toledo Public Schools officials traveled to the country this week on a mission to enhance its Chinese language program.

The overlap of the two trips is a coincidence, officials from both sides said, and neither group will be in the same city at the same time.

Mr. Bell will accompany about 20 Toledo-area businessmen to China from Tuesday through Nov. 21.

“It’s still about being able to create those relationships that have the ability to bring businesses back here on this side of the ocean that can put U.S. workers back to work,” Mr. Bell said.

The Toledo Public Schools trip is part of the Chinese Bridge for American Schools program, organized by Hanban University in China and the Office of Chinese Language Council International.

Three TPS employees made the trip: Jim Gault, chief academic officer, Gayle Schaber, director of special projects and compensatory programs, and Ed Perozek, Start High School principal.

The Toledo officials landed in Beijing on Wednesday and will return to the United States Thursday. They’ll visit schools, tour provinces, and go to Hanban’s campus headquarters.

Most of the costs for the trip were covered by Hanban University and the Chinese language council, although TPS is paying $900 in travel costs for each of its three participants.

The goal of the trip is to gain ideas for expanding Chinese education in Toledo schools and increase cultural exchange programs.

TPS teaches Chinese in some schools, and runs a Chinese program at Old Orchard Elementary, Mr. Perozek’s former school, through a partnership with a Confucius Institute housed at the University of Toledo.

Confucius Institutes are nonprofit public institutions affiliated with the Chinese government that aim to promote the country’s language and culture.

Mr. Gault said TPS plans to expand Chinese offerings in the district, including increased partnerships like the one Old Orchard has with the Confucius Institute, and possibly pushing Chinese language district-wide.

The city group traveling next week will be in Shenzhen, Wuhan, Hangzhou, and Shanghai.

The mayor is unfazed by political rhetoric on China during the presidential campaign and points out that other, larger cities made business deals in China during the campaign.

“That does not affect anything I am doing ... I understand it is rhetoric,” Mr. Bell said.

“We are trying to put Toledo ahead of other cities and everyone will realize at some point in time that this is a global economy.”

The city is paying $2,848 each for Mr. Bell and for his spokesman, Jen Sorgenfrei, to go on the trip. That is to cover all transportation, meals, and hotels.

Also on the trip from the city will be Dean Monske, president of the Regional Growth Partnership and Paul Zito, the RGP’s vice president of international development. The cost of their trips will not be paid by the city, Ms. Sorgenfrei said.

Because the trip was not organized by the city, it did not have a list of the delegates.

The economic development delegation will start in the city of Shenzhen near Hong Kong at the China Hi-Tech Fair beginning on Nov. 16.

Mr. Bell said maintaining a relationship with Chinese businessmen and officials has already paid dividends for Toledo by Chinese investors.

Dashing Pacific Group Ltd., a group of Chinese investors, last year paid the city $3.8 million for the vacant Marina District property and $2.15 million for the Docks restaurant complex — both in East Toledo. The firm has yet to build anything, despite pressures for it to do so.

In September, Toledo hosted dozens of Chinese investors for a nearly weeklong 5 Lakes Global Economic Forum.

The summit was coordinated by the Regional Growth Partnership and 5 Lakes Global Group Ltd., a consulting group headed by Simon Guo, a Chinese translator, deal broker, and Toledo-area resident who repeatedly has brought Chinese investors to the region.

Mr. Guo was among the team that first introduced Mayor Bell to investors from China who ultimately purchased the Marina District and Docks complex land.

In September, 2011, a private Chinese investment group called Five Lakes Global Group Ltd. spent $3 million to buy Toledo’s largest downtown hotel, the former Radisson Hotel, which had been renamed the Park Inn. It was the site of the 5 Lakes Global Economic Forum.

Mr. Monske did not return telephone calls seeking comment and Mr. Guo could not be reached.

Harlan Reichle, RGP chairman and senior managing director of the Reichle Klein Group, which manages the Docks for Dashing Pacific, said he wanted to see this kind of trade mission firsthand.

“I am really going wearing two hats — on behalf of my business and the interest that Chinese investors apparently have in commercial property ... and my other interest is as chairman of the [RGP] given the resources and time it invested in this initiative,” Mr. Reichle said.

Also expected to join the mayor is Hylant Group Vice President Jessica Xie; Steve Miller, general manager of the SeaGate Centre, and Internet entrepreneur Will Lucas, whose downtown business Creadio tailors background music to suit clients including The Andersons and McDonald’s.

Staff writer Nolan Rosenkrans contributed to this report.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171.



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