Monday, 20 January 2014

Forging a new bond: Chengdu and Hertfordshire

This morning, Herts Chamber of Commerce held an exclusive meeting with the Chinese Delegation of Chengdu, discussing how two economies, one needing exports, the other needing imports, are able help each other. The highly positive results pave the way for small Hertfordshire businesses engaging in one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.

The expansion of Shanghai raced along at a rate previously unimaginable. Now China has another up-and-coming superpower on its hands.

Chengdu: keep an eye on that skyline (source: Wikimedia Commons)

Introducing Chengdu, the city whose growth is currently at an astonishing 12-15%. Let that figure sink in. Similar to the rest of China, Chengdu is well-versed in exports, but it currently wants to grow imports, the opposite of the situation in the UK.

In addition, Chengu’s primary industries match Hertfordshire’s to a tee, those are:
-          Food, drink and leisure
-          Healthcare and education
-          Automotives
-          Property & construction
-          Expansion in green technology and IT

From the meeting this morning, Chengdu’s government want the business of small-medium enterprises (SMEs), of which Hertfordshire has many. Even businesses with two or less employees – which account for 40,000 out of 55,000 registered companies in Herts – are welcome, as globalisation may hold the key to success for small-scale set-ups, both start-ups and well established enterprises.

After the meeting: the presentation of pandas

Links between the region and Chengdu have never been stronger, with British Airways recent opening of a direct link between London Heathrow and Chengdu Shuangliu Airport, resulting in an impressive 11 hour trip.

Furthermore, moves by GSK’s Herts-based operations into the city’s economy will lay foundations for SMEs – whom our new friends are most interested in - to take full advantage of the copious opportunity now at their disposal.

Neville Reyner, ex-head of the British Chambers of Commerce, current-head of University of Hertfordshire’s business school, successfully identified two key areas, which were welcomed unanimously:
  1. For the Hertfordshire’s thriving clean-tech industry to expand into Chengdu, using technology to improve the CO2 footprint of homes
  2. Greater student-exchange links for those in education and healthcare, opening access for English students to one of China’s most rapidly expanding cities
Thirteen people (including our wonderful interpreter, who took the shot) were involved in the high-impact discussion

With geographical difference, it is still easy to underestimate the potential rewards of expansion, especially for small-medium enterprises. However, with a combination of modern technology and newly-formed links between Herts and a city whose sights are set on the county, the time for local enterprises to dip their toes in overseas markets is now.

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