Far East Connection? Tacoma, China partnership sought by City committee

A report on business opportunities between Tacoma and Fuzhou, China has sparked interest within City Hall to invite a delegation of Chinese business leaders to visit the city later this year, according to discussion at Tuesday’s Economic Development Committee meeting.

“We found the Chinese government has given broad permission to Chinese firms to invest overseas,” said Bruce Kendall, CEO of the Economic Development Board of Tacoma-Pierce County. Kendall headed up a South Sound group that visited several cities in China over a 10-day period last month. “We’re looking for strategies and opportunities there to bring investment this way.”

One strategy? A number of companies ranging from a PVC pipe manufacturer to a mobile phone company want a presence in the United States. Such so-called “foreign direct investment” could be profitable for Tacoma, according to Kendall. “This is new ground for us,” he said. “It’s the first time we have had foreign direct investment attraction as part of our work program.”

Kendall added that the City of Tacoma has been invited to participate in a seminal trade show in Fuzhou this spring. He also encouraged the City to prepare a letter inviting a delegation from Fuzhou to visit Tacoma as early as this fall.

Mayor Bill Baarsma liked the idea of inviting Fuzhou representatives to the city. Baarsma pointed to the new Chinese Reconciliation Park, which broke ground Aug. 19 along the Ruston Way overlooking Commencement Bay, as one of many efforts Tacomans have made to reach out to Chinese citizens. The 4-acre, $6 million park honors more than 200 Chinese were expelled from the city Nov. 3, 1885 by a group that included a city councilman, judge, sheriff, and the mayor. Baarsma said that event has had a lasting impact on relations between Tacoma and China.

“We’re really working right now to re-establish a relationship,” he said.