Let’s face it: Going to China to talk to over 70 of China’s largest corporations about investing in America is a challenge when the U.S. government is in the midst of a shutdown. But when our delegation of southern elected officials began our luncheon panel discussion, it was easy to explain why we chose to be mayors — we KNOW what our communities want and need and, as we stressed to the crowd, WE never shut down.
I would never have imagined myself telling a foreign country that we local officials believed we were the true picture of how America works and not what they saw on CNN.
And they responded favorably…as we left the stage, corporate leaders passed us their business cards and expressed interest: “Mayor Swain, we are interested in locating to the U.S. We like what you said about North Carolina.” Even today, at a separate meeting, I was approached by Chinese investors who were interested in building relationships in NC, based in our presentation.
Don’t get me wrong: This is not easy. First, I am here with three mayors and a judge from Alabama — all of whom have embraced the concept of building relationships and after two years, are seeing more Chinese corporate leaders visiting their communities with the intention to locate. They are ahead of NC and we have the chance to catch up.
A campaigning candidate messaged me with a negative buzzword: Are we competing with Alabama with incentives?” Bringing up incentives is not the question: We should be asking how we can continue to build these relationships and how much do we stand to lose by not making the effort?
In fact, after the southern delegation had a private dinner with high dollar corporate leaders last night, many made the commitment to head to the U.S. for a summit in Dothan, Alabama…and CNN headline last night read that “UK Prime Minister heads to China to discuss Chinese investment”…And Huntersville was already there.
Through our relationship with our lobbyist and his connection with the SoZo Group, we are building networks, connections and future corporate citizens. Through that relationship I have the ability to personally deliver a message to the CEO of Hong Kong from both Governor McCrory and Rep. Pittenger that North Carolina is desirous of positive relations. Yes, Huntersville is positioned well, but we should be aware that there are other municipalities that will quickly catch on. We have been a forward thinking town for decades. Now, we have more to look forward to.