WHITEVILLE, NC (WECT) – Half a world away from home, government and business leaders from Zhaoyuan, China toured Columbus County Tuesday, sparking conversations about partnering with leaders here on economic projects to benefit both communities.
The delegation of five officials, led by Zhaoyuan Vice Mayor Tan Keliang, started the day at the Black's Tire Service corporate headquarters then toured MaXPro Window Films in the Southeast Regional Industrial Park west of Whiteville.
Columbus County Economic Development Director Gary Lanier said MaXPro is considering opening a distribution center in China.
"Will it happen tomorrow? Probably not, but that is something that we would like to investigate," Lanier said.
Because such projects often take years to develop, Lanier said he's come to think of economic development like planting seeds.
"Some of those seeds are going to grow really, really fast. But other seeds you plant today, you might not see germinate for five years, six years, ten years."
The Chinese delegation also visited the plant micro-propagation lab at Southeastern Community College before heading to Lake Waccamaw for a boat ride and outdoor lunch with local dignitaries.
Later in the afternoon, the group toured West Fraser Timber near Riegelwood and the State Port in Wilmington.
Through an interpreter, Tan – the vice mayor - said he hopes to see results from the trip.
"We want to achieve something from the communications between the governments because only in this way can we develop our economy and improve the capitals of the two counties," he said.
Lanier says the first step to fostering an economic partnership is building relationships like the ones being cultivated on this trip.
"It doesn't matter who you're dealing with throughout the entire world," he said. "It's all about how you treat people."