It is natural for many in this community to equate economic development with the transforming influx of Japanese businesses into Columbus beginning in the late 1980s.
That was, indeed, a remarkable process. Following the arrival of Enkei Inc. in the city in 1987, 18 other Japanese companies chose to establish a presence in this community.
It has resulted in hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in capital investment.
Although the pace of economic development for Columbus with companies tied to China is much slower than what transpired with Japanese firms in the late ‘80s, it is nevertheless steady.
Last month a group of Chinese officials visited the city as part of a nationwide tour in which the 20 advisers from China’s foreign investment bureau met with leaders from six American communities.
That Columbus was chosen to be among such a small cast is definitely a promising signal.
It is one of many that indicate closer ties between Columbus and one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.
Ironically, as the trade delegation was arriving, a smaller group of Chinese visitors was preparing to leave.
Two professors from a college in China were winding up a month-long stay in Columbus, where they learned about business and technology curricula and the teaching methods of the faculty at Ivy Tech.
The visit was part of a burgeoning relationship between Ivy Tech and a sister institution in China — the Wuxi Professional College of Science and Technology in Wuxi, China.
The visits by the two Chinese groups this summer speak to an already strong relationship that has been established between Columbus and China.
One of the key factors has been the presence of Cummins Inc. in China and the role that the Columbus-based company is playing in paving the way for a smooth relationship between our community and China.
Over the past decade Columbus officials and local economic development leaders have made many trips to China for exploratory talks with a number of business and government leaders.
Many of those visits have resulted in closer social ties, especially in Columbus’ establishment of sister city relationships with two areas in China — Wuxi and Xiangyang City.
Another central element in the growing Columbus-China relationship has been the commitment and work of local business leader Ryan Hou. CEO of LHP Inc., Hou has led many of the Columbus delegations to China and has used his ties in that country to bolster the city’s case for investment.
Finally, the state of Indiana under Gov. Mitch Daniels has made the relationship with China a priority.
It shows when reviewing the itinerary of the delegation from China’s foreign investment bureau.
Two of the six areas the experts visited are to be expected — New York City and Silicon Valley in California. The other four sites, however, are all in Indiana — Indianapolis, French Lick, Lafayette and Columbus.