Impromptu visit could open more China trade opportunities
A group of Chinese business delegates from the northeastern city of Harbin visited Anchorage June 8-9 to meet face-to-face with Alaska business leaders interested in opening more trade between the two cities.
The Harbin group’s impromptu Alaska visit was arranged in five days time, said Emma Kelly, the Anchorage Economic Development Corp.’s business and economic director. The group of seven executives from the Hua Hong Group arrived eight days after Gov. Bill Walker’s China Opportunity Trade Mission returned to Alaska.
“On Monday, (June 4) we received a phone call at 9 a.m. from Steven Lo (the executive director of Hua Hong Group), saying they would be in town Friday and Saturday and wanted to know if I could make arrangements for them to visit with businesses,” Kelly said.
The last-minute effort worked out fairly smoothly, Kelly said.
“This is undoubtedly related to the governor’s trade mission. And yes, it’s happening quickly,” she said.
The Hua Hong Group, a conglomerate headquartered in Beijing, was interested in hearing about trade partnership opportunities in seafood, real estate, airport construction projects, air travel and tourism.
Hua Hong is composed of about a dozen companies each specialized in the businesses of World Trade Center Harbin, which means real estate development, airlines, trading, logistics, investment and hospitality services, according to an information sheet they gave out at the meeting.
Under discussion now are the logistics necessary to create a new direct-flight that puts Harbin and Anchorage 6 ½ hours apart, or half the time of the current more circuitous airline cargo routes. This would make it more easily possible to ship fresh fish and Alaska-made products that are then distributed throughout China from the World Trade Center Harbin, Lo said.
Eight Alaska businesses were able to introduce their businesses to the Hua Hong Group for a Friday morning meeting that started just after 8 a.m. at AEDC offices.
Executives came from Pacific Rim Architects, DOWL Engineering, Matson Ocean Shipping, Stantec Anchorage, the Tanadgusix or TDX Corp., which owns crab processing facilities on St. Paul, and the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority.
Zhang Hong Shan, chairman of the Hua Hong Group, asked questions of each person representing the various industries. Zhang, speaking through a translator, later said one of his top interests is finding a way to get fresh seafood from Anchorage to Harbin.
“Specifically, we are interested in live seafood exported to Northeast Chinese markets,” Zhang said, referring to crab.
These would be destined for restaurants, he added. But he would also like fresh-caught wild salmon made available to Chinese markets through Harbin.
He’s also interested in construction companies that may be able to design cold weather architecture for residential and commercial needs in Harbin. The climates of Harbin and Anchorage are similar, he noted, though the Chinese city serves a population of nearly 11 million people and is the capital of Heilongjiang Province.
He is also interested in hiring engineering and architect firms for airport construction that may relate to a new Harbin-Anchorage route.
In the “near term,” Zhang said he’s interested in the opportunities from Alaska’s liquefied natural gas proposal and more tourism ties.
“I am looking forward to see what we can learn,” he said, noting this as his first trip to Alaska.
One of the problems currently is that China imports a lot of farmed seafood, said Sui Jin Kon, director of global alliances at Hua Hong. But what they want is wild salmon, she added, in the “push for non-farmed, non-GMO-type products.”
After the meeting at AEDC, the Harbin delegation went on a tour of Copper River Seafoods on the banks of Ship Creek, a processing plant for its famed salmon brand. They also visited Bambino’s Baby Food at the manufacturing operation on Spenard Road. Founder and CEO Zoi Maroudas traveled on the governor’s trade mission last month. Copper River and Bambino’s collaborate on the frozen baby food seafood products.
AEDC’s Emma Kelly said after those visits, she arranged the group to go to a tourism presentation, then on an Anchorage Trolley Tour. They also met with officials at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. A presentation by regional vice president of Lynden, Rick Pollock, ended their airport tour. They then wrapped up the day with dinner at the 49th State Brewing Co.
Owners Jason Motyka and David McCarthy are working on exporting their beer to China, and were also members of the governor’s trade mission.
On Saturday, the group was at Alyeska Resort for presentations.
“These are people who are really poised to take action in regards to trade initiatives with China,” Kelly said, speaking of those she arranged the Chinese delegation to meet.
Steven Lo, the chairman of the Hua Hong Group, said opportunities are arising rapidly and “we want to take advantage of that.”
“This particular trip focused on possibilities that can be executed in the future between Anchorage and Harbin,” said AEDC Communications Director Sean Carpenter. “Everything they mentioned was in relation to a Harbin and Anchorage connection.”
Naomi Klouda can be reached at n[email protected].