Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker

A mission trip to China slated for early September and led by Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker will be a great boon for businesses and for every resident in the county, officials said.

Baker will lead a delegation of 25 county businesses on a visit to the Asian country from Sept. 4-12 with an eye to promoting Prince George’s County exports, attracting foreign investment to development projects in the county, and strengthening existing partnerships forged during a previous mission.

“We are making great connections overseas,” Baker said in a statement. “The more successful County businesses are, the more people they will hire.  The more people businesses hire, the more taxes are paid.  The more taxes businesses pay, the more services are available for the citizens of Prince George’s County.”

The mission has its genesis in a decision made early on by the Baker administration to target the world’s top emerging economies – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa or BRICS nations – for trade and investment. “The GDPs of these nations were growing so fast that we wanted our county firms to engage companies in these markets that were seeing their middle class explode, and 7-8 percent annual growth of their economies,” said Jim Coleman, president of the Prince George’s County Economic Development Corp (EDC).

Initially, Baker joined the governor of Maryland in missions to Brazil and India. Then in 2014, Baker led a delegation of 27 business leaders to China in a mission that netted huge returns, Coleman said.

As a result of that visit, for example, Urban Atlantic successfully secured $16.5 million dollars from Chinese investors, through the U.S. federal government’s EB-5 foreign investment program, for a real estate development of 238 apartments, 400 square meters of retail, and 366 parking spaces in College Park, Maryland.  Also, the Chesapeake Regional Center, which is headquartered in Prince George’s, obtained $11.5 million in funding commitments from Chinese investors for its hotel development in Baltimore.

Additionally, Rechsand Science and Technology Group, a Beijing-based company focused on oil exploitation, waterworks, eco-construction, agriculture, and more has opened an operation in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

The county executive’s involvement continues to be a huge part of that success, as it sends important signals to Chinese officials and local business owners, Coleman said. “Having Mr. Baker lead a delegation of serious business leaders and developers sends an important signal that we are serious about development in Prince George’s County.  Remember, China is a nation that views the centrality of government in everything – it is a centralized economy.   So to have the top government leader of our County lead this mission is huge,” the EDC leader said.

Baker’s involvement also “ensures the swift execution of streamlined permitting and approval of major developments and it shows our business community that the County is willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that their projects are successful and able to generate the tax revenue necessary to sustain and improve Prince George’s County,” Coleman added.

One of the primary attractions of the mission is the Chinese International Fair for Investment and Trade (CIFIT) in Xiamen, China. The expo is the largest trade and investment conference in the world, which draws more than 50,000 businesses and investors annually. The delegation will also attend the Overseas Property & Immigration Conference in Shanghai.

“This mission provides unparalleled contact to potential investors with access to two conferences, one-on-one business-to-business meetings, networking events, high level meetings with government officials, as well as the meetings they will participate in with the county executive,” Coleman said.

The delegation will also use the trip to “bridge build,” Coleman said. Following up on memorandums of understanding signed with Xiamen City and Beijing’s Changping District last year, the county will sign a Sister City/County Agreement with the latter this year.

The relationship between China and Prince George’s County is one that can prove advantageous for both parties, officials said. There are an “awful lot” of Chinese investors looking for profitable investment opportunities and exporters looking to establish a foothold in the United States, Coleman said, and the county has several qualities that makes it attractive. Those factors include: Its proximity to the nation’s capital but its relatively less expensive lease rates; its access to major highways, three major airports and the deep sea Port of Baltimore; stock of office, industrial and retail space and a highly educated workforce; and the countywide Foreign-Trade Zone, a designation that offers numerous benefits to importers located within that area, such as deferred import duties or eliminated tariffs on products imported, and then re-exported from the FTZ to international markets.

For businesses in the county, Coleman said, the benefits of establishing markets in China can be explained in one word, “scale.”

“For an exporter, the Chinese market is amazing for partnerships, distribution, and sales,” Coleman told the AFRO. “The sheer numbers of consumers for products in China blows your mind.  A second or third tier city in China will have millions of residents.  We have under 1 million in our entire county.”