County Executive Isiah Leggett and a delegation of officials and business leaders from around Montgomery County set out for China last month on a mission to expand the county’s business reach, and they appear to have achieved their goal.
The trip lasted from Sept. 15-25, with a delegation of more than 80 participating in all or part of the journey that included stops in Shanghai, Beijing and other cities.
County Councilman Hans Riemer (D-At Large) of Silver Spring, who went on the trip along with Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Dist. 1) of Bethesda, said the trip helped the county form new partnerships.
Several biotechnology and real estate business leaders were very excited to learn about the resources the county offers for public-private partnerships at facilities in White Oak and Gaithersburg, Riemer said.
Montgomery’s biotech community, with about 300 companies, is one of the largest in the country.
One of the county’s selling points was BioHealth Innovation, a joint venture between the county and various private companies to help commercialize discoveries made by the biotech industry.
“Sometimes the ideas don’t make it to market as efficiently as they should,” Riemer said.
Montgomery has a competitive advantage in attracting Chinese business because of its strong Chinese-American community, an asset it needs to take advantage of along with a diverse, highly-educated work force, he said.
The county was still gathering information on the trip and would release information on various agreements that were reached in the next few days, county spokesman Patrick Lacefield said Thursday.
Most participants, including Leggett (D), paid for the trip themselves, but Lacefield said the county did pay $7,500 to cover the costs of two staff members and half the costs of one intern.
On Sept. 24, the county delegation toured the Zhongguancun Software Park, as well as met with executives from Glodon Software and Sinovac Biotech, agreeing to long-term cooperation focused mainly on biology and life sciences, according to the website ChinaDaily.com.
Berliner called the trip an “invaluable experience” that he believes will have a long-term positive impact on business in Montgomery County.
From the size of China’s cities to the scope of its public works projects and the intensity of its focus on economic development, Berliner said the trip was truly eye-opening.
“The scale of everything in China is almost beyond comprehension,” he said.