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SCV offers attractive benefits for foreign business investors

Posted: May 28, 2014 3:03 p.m.
Updated: May 28, 2014 3:03 p.m.

Six leaders from the Santa Clarita Valley accompanied Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich on a one-week trip to meet with business leaders and investors in China and Hong Kong. One of the meetings held included 40 to 50 potential investors who are interested in the U.S. market. The SCV Business Journal asked each of the local people in the delegation about their personal impressions, and the economic opportunities they see for the Santa Clarita Valley.

Ken Wiseman, CEO, AMS Fulfillment

What was the most interesting thing you learned – or experienced – on your trip to China?

As a businessman I was humbled by the fact that we tend to think a company truly hasn’t made it until they’ve been accomplished in the U.S. market. But what you quickly learn in China is that isn’t the case. There are companies like the BYD all-electric bus company that which has 180,000 employees and a worldwide presence, yet they’re only just starting to make their way into the U.S. market.

Another perfect example is Alibaba, which is just going public in the U.S. Who would have known that Alibaba is already bigger than Amazon and eBay put together — and yet they’re barely doing business in the U.S.

What did you take away from the trip that you think might eventually benefit the SCV economically?

I was very interested in the EB-5 program that is encouraging Chinese investors to invest in U.S. growth by providing companies and investors with loans or equity participation at extremely competitive rates for loans. Businesses in the SCV could take advantage of these loans. We may pursue one to possibly build a building for AMS.

There are a lot of Chinese businessmen, private investors, who have done extremely well and now have an interest in moving to the U.S. or sending their kids to school here in exchange for the investments.
Our group presented a ‘circle of partners’ to allow anyone to place one call to the EDC, and they’ll be put in touch with a whole circle of business partners and resources. We cemented the fact that they have a one-stop place here in California.


Randy Wrage, Spirit Properties, Associate

What was the most interesting thing you learned – or experienced – on your trip to China?

The two high-tech parks we visited; one was in Shenzhen, a city in China, and the other was in Hong Kong. There is an extraordinary amount of real estate infrastructure put in place for new businesses to incubate.

I was also surprised at the magnitude of state-sponsored business development efforts. There are millions of square feet of very hi-tech, high-end property. It looked like an R&D park, maybe Scripps center in San Diego.

Imagine the Mann Biomedical Park but ten times that size and full of smaller companies that are trying to get started.

What did you take away from the trip that you think might eventually benefit the SCV economically?

I went because I feel it’s only a matter of time before we are more active trade partners with the Chinese, and that feeling was validated. We’re on our way to being more active trade partners. The Chinese are coming more in line with our culture quite a bit and naturally progressing. They crammed what it took us the last 60 years do, in the last 10 to 15 years. And there are young executives struggling to buy their first house, have kids – the same struggles you see a 30-year-old going through in the SCV. It’s a remarkable parallel. As those cultural lines come closer together, we’ll start trading more in goods, talent and money.


Holly Schroeder, CEO and President of the SCVEDC

What was the most interesting thing you learned – or experienced – on your trip to China?

The trip was a living demonstration of the power of a free market. Shenzhen is a special economic zone in China, with more market-driven economic policies. It has experienced exponential growth since it was designated, growing from 200,000 people to 15 million in about the same amount of time it took to build Valencia.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong has been named one of the freest economies in the world, and retains a high quality of life, good educational systems and a talented workforce. The result was a feeling of tremendous optimism, where people believe they can do anything.

On a lighter note, I enjoyed the architecture in both cities. It must be an amazing place to be an architect, engineer or builder – the creativity is astounding. You can see that the buildings can both honor their history and culture while utilizing state-of-the-art features and designs.

What did you take away from the trip that you think might eventually benefit the SCV economically?

We met with a number of companies that already have global markets but that don’t have much presence in the US. These are companies that are leaders in their industries, but that don’t work in the U.S. yet. At some point, they will enter the U.S. market in some way. I think we positioned the Santa Clarita Valley as a good location for that market entry, when the company is ready to make that business decision. We will remain in contact with those we met and hopefully see a few companies come visit the Santa Clarita Valley to see the opportunities first hand.


Steve Tannehill, Executive Director, Small Business Development Center

Economic Development Division, College of the Canyons

What was the most interesting thing you learned – or experienced – on your trip to China?

The extent of the economic growth that’s taking place struck me. We read about it — but when you go there and see a development with 12 cranes in the air putting up five or six, 40 to 50 story buildings — you really appreciate the economic growth that’s occurring.

The other thing is how much that country has changed, how entrepreneurial it has become. We tend to think of it still as a state-run communist country, but it’s 180 degrees different. In some ways the people are on their own to make it, and make their fortune, even more so than in America. New businesses are replacing the state enterprise companies, but it’s not what it was 35 years ago. It’s very dynamic, very entrepreneurial. And they have the same concerns as us – how to get their kids into college and be able to afford it, how to fund their own retirement, how to get healthcare, how to find a job on the Internet. The state run enterprise system is being replaced with the private enterprises system.

What did you take away from the trip that you think might eventually benefit the SCV economically?

From the college standpoint, COC focused on three things: (1) economic development – forming relationships and building bridges to bring companies here and attract more foreign investments; (2) growing our international student program – it enriches all students to have an international presence locally; and (3) developing an immersion language institute for two to four weeks by teaching English during the day and then holding meetings at night to learn about American business culture.

We made very good contacts with people and achieved a lot in moving all objectives forward; all things that would have a positive impact on Santa Clarita by bringing people and firms here.


Craig Peters, Executive Vice President, CBRE

What was the most interesting thing you learned – or experienced – on your trip to China?

The scale was unbelievable. We toured a single company whose campus included a manufacturing facility larger than the entire Valencia Commerce Center. It also had more residential units for employees than the total size of Newhall Ranch. Further, the public/private commitment to science and technology was impressive.

What did you take away from the trip that you think might eventually benefit the SCV economically?

Chinese companies are looking for Southern California locations, and investors are looking for opportunities in the U.S., particularly EB-5 related. We saw a lot of interest from investors in that program.

Also, we met with a number of companies that are looking for distribution facilities for everything from manufacturing assembly to technology centers in the U.S. The trip presented the opportunity to talk about the attributes that the SCV offers.

I am virtually certain that we will see a number of opportunities that will come out of that trip.


Jia-yi cheng-levine, COC, Director, Int’l Students Program

Editor’s Note: Jia-yi, a native of Taiwan who immigrated to the U.S. at age 25 and a PhD in English from the University of Pennsylvania, speaks and reads Mandarin Chinese, Taiwanese and English.  She was able from the perspective as an immigrant while on the trip to Hong Kong and China. She also spent a week in Taiwan.

What was the most interesting thing you learned – or experienced – on your trip to China?

I was visiting from an education perspective but was surprised to learn that the benefits we offer as a community are equally important to potential investors and businesses. People said other delegations always describe the economic benefits, but not their communities.

We were meeting with the Hong Kong Chamber of Commerce and the Chairman stopped the meeting when he learned about the education system here. They are very interested in the universities; they don’t have enough space for their students. He was interested in knowing that California has a strong community college system, and they didn’t know that community colleges serve as a springboard to four-year universities. COC is ranked in the top 5 percent within the community college system with all of our degree and certificate programs.

Also, the living environment will become one of the two key factors to coming here and investing, she said.

What did you take away from the trip that you think might eventually benefit the SCV economically?

These are big businesses coming in, and it would be good to create an environment that is truly multi-cultural; one that appreciates multi cultural diversity. The parents want their kids to go to the top notch universities, and if we want to gravitate toward those economic opportunities, our city really needs to focus more on diversity and multi-cultural events in order to become truly a ‘world community.

Santa Clarita also loves the family, and if we focus on that, we’ll attract the best that these countries have to offer. And that’s a way to bring in the best companies and create opportunities for our own students.

I think we’re waking up to the world or this trip would not have happened. The U.S. will attract 100,000 Chinese students in the coming years, and it’s our mission to ‘introduce us’ to the world.

I think the purpose of this trip was to help companies in Asia understand we are truly the full-package community.

I was able to speak to people without a translator and learned that they want the same things we do – a good lifestyle, safe community, quality education for our kids – and explain that the SCV offers all of that and shared the number of high-ranking Blue Ribbon schools, student test scores and COC’s reputation.


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