It was the chance Richard Shinhoster’s been waiting for.
The city of Savannah, in conjunction with the Georgia-China Alliance, brought in Shanghai business executives Monday for a workshop about how to get started doing business with China.
Shinhoster, a member of the Greater International Alliance advisory committee, imports from several countries in Africa for his shop, The Diaspora Marketplace, 510 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
“I’ve very interested in trade with China,” he said. “I want to know what kind of products they have that I might bring to my business.”
Nearly two years after a second Savannah delegation visit to China, this was the first time Chinese business owners were here. Previous international visits have been from government and education officials.
It also reflects a recent city decision to create an international office tasked with building global outreach.
Alliance administrators contacted the city about a day visit, but city officials, learning that Shanghai business leaders were here to explore trade options, asked to create a workshop session, said MarRonde Lumpkin Lotson, who heads the city’s international efforts.
“It was a prime opportunity,” she said. “There’s a lot of mystique about doing business globally. We want to remove that mystery and keep it from seeming so daunting.”
The session covered basics of the Chinese economy, looked at developing high-tech manufacturing and outlined some of the protocol and customs essential to building relationships.
Hank Wilfong Jr., a retired CPA and former Nixon administration appointee to the Small Business Adminstration, plans to encourage the city and local businesses to pursue relations with China. Wilfong recalled Nixon, who in 1972 was the first president to visit China, explaining the diplomatic outreach by saying it would be hard for the U.S. to ignore 1 billion people.
China’s population today is more than 1.3 billion, and it also has rapidly developing industries in mining, defense and auto manufacturing. Pair that with Savannah having the second-largest port on the East Coast, and the business opportunities are obvious, Wilfong said.
“Savannah is the gateway to the Southeast,” he said. “We’ve got to set up our businesses to benefit from that opportunity. We need to take advantage of what comes our way, the millions and the billions that flow through here.
“They’re reaching out their hands,” he said of the Chinese delegation. “We’ve got to get with it.”