To say the Victoria delegation on a recent trip to China was met with great hospitality would be an understatement.
For instance, after light-heartedly musing in a speech about riding a horse on the Mongolian steppes, Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin was lined up with a steed the next day by his hosts and taken for a jaunt.
Despite such offerings, though, the 10-days of travel to seven Chinese cities was a serious endeavour. The city’s delegation brought together top local officials from the business and education sectors in an effort to penetrate China’s huge market.
“Foreign trade is really important for us,” Fortin said Wednesday, after a public presentation on the Oct. 20-30 journey. “We are a nation built on trade. To have that international exchange so that both countries can gain means something.”
Among those on the trip were Saul Klein, dean of the University of Victoria’s Gustavson school of business, Cyndi McLeod of Royal Roads University, Camosun College’s Tom Roemer and Tourism Victoria CEO Rob Gialloreto.
“It’s all about having the mayor’s office help co-ordinate all of our efforts to market Greater Victoria,” Fortin said. “Having everybody coming together signifies the importance to this region of that area of China.”
Dallas Gislason of the Greater Victoria Development Agency said the trip has led to the potential for an estimated $10 million in Chinese investment that could come here in the short term. That includes investors currently looking at medium-sized hotels and wineries.
“We have one particular investor in Shanghai who’s looking for a high-tech company to invest in.”
Also of note is the City of Changsha expressing an interest in starting a micro-brewery here in concert with a local entrepreneur.
Klein said UVic made an effort to take a more directed approach to its dealings in China, where the business school is already working with Hunan University. UVic earns revenues of $50,000 annually from the partnership.
“China is a big place, we’re a pretty small school, Victoria’s a pretty small place,” Klein said. “So focus becomes important.”
Travelling with an official city group provided instant credibility, Klein said, since the mayoral office holds especially high esteem in the Chinese system.
Also making inroads was Camosun College, which reached an agreement on a partnership in the City of Baotou that includes English-as-a-second language and vocational training. The Sooke School District has developed a program with a Chinese school that will bring 50 Chinese students to the district in 2012-13, with those numbers expected to grow in time.
Fortin said the trip cost $17,000 — $10,000 of which was covered by funding from the provincial Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative. The previous city trip to China was in 2010.
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