As part of their sister city relationship, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett met with a delegation from Xi’an, China to help facilitate an economic partnership between Xi’an and the County.
The newly created Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation (MCEDC), a private-public group that seeks to attract businesses to the County, signed a memorandum of understanding to help promote business between the County and Xi’an
“As you can imagine, their government finance structure is entirely different from the United States’, so to have a friendly government in each place is essential in establishing a new operation,” said Robby Brewer, vice president of the board of directors for the MCEDC.
The trip by the delegation from Xi’an to the County was a follow-up to a trip made by Leggett and County business officials to Xi’an in 2013. In 2014 the two jurisdictions, signed a Sister City agreement insuring a business and cultural connections between the County and Xi’an.
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The delegation from China included the Mayor of Xi’an, Shangguan Jiqing and the Director of Xi’an Bureau of Commerce Lv Hengjun. They came to Montgomery County on Aug. 20 as part of a U.S. tour that began with visits to the Chinese Ambassador in Washington D.C. and University of Maryland President Wallace Loh.
Brewer said the MCEDC hopes to attract technology businesses from Xi’an to locate in the County.
“It’s directly related in attracting investment from all over the world including China,” Brewer said.
Leggett said Xi’an caught the eye of the County because it is considered a major technology hub in China, a fit for the many information technology and biotechnology companies located in the County.
While the memorandum was not binding, Leggett said the agreement with Xi’an could fit nicely into the County’s public-private development in the East County, specifically the planned science gateway Vista White Oak, which would include a new headquarters for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), new space for Washington Adventist Hospital as well as offices for private biotechnology companies.
The County invested $47 million to improve infrastructure in the East County to accommodate the new research park in in White Oak.
“What we are trying to do as it relates to our new economic development initiatives is to align our economic cooperation with some of the things that they are doing there,” Leggett said.
Leggett said he hopes County investments in White Oak as well as strong schools, proximity to Washington D.C. and large Chinese community will help attract business from Xi’an to locate in the County.
“These companies like to know that their governments are supporting them and encouraging them in those initiatives,” Leggett said.
Though, the visit was not meant just to entice Chinese investors to locate their businesses to County, but to promote business between the Xi’an and Montgomery County overall.
Lily Qi, the assistant chief administrative officer for the County executive, said that she hopes the visit will not only facilitate business in the technology sector but also in tourism and hospitality.
Qi said Montgomery County has the largest Chinese community in the Washington Metropolitan Region and said the Sister City agreement between the County and Xi’an could help promote the County’s Chinese markets and shops as a destination for Chinese tourists visiting Washington, D.C.
“After they visit a monument in D.C. they can come to Montgomery County as a stop,” said Qi of Chinese tourists.
Brewer said the MCEDC can facilitate businesses relocation to the County by helping them find space, introducing them to potential investors and negotiating the County’s laws and regulations. The MCEDC was founded as a replacement to the former Montgomery County Department of Economic Development Corporation
“We’re facilitators so we can facilitate orientation, introductions, problem solving,” Brewer said. “All it takes to bring a business here.”