City of Terrace officials say the build out of the portion of the Skeena Industrial Development Park owned by Chinese interests is on schedule and have assurances there’s hard work underway to entice companies to locate there.
The comments were made during an information session June 16 at city hall where a delegation – made up of city councillors, Mayor Carol Leclerc and representatives from Northwest Community College (NWCC) and the Coast Mountains School District – spoke about a trip they made to China last month.
NWCC and the school district were part of the delegation in order to look at the possibility of creating student exchange programs.
Leclerc spoke candidly about the May 8-15 trip to Qinhuangdao, a port city in China that Terrace signed a “friendly exchange agreement” with in November 2015 and where the Qinhuangdao Economic and Technological Development Zone is located.
It’s this entity, represented in Canada through Taisheng Investments in Burnaby, which has an ownership stake over approximately half of the local industrial park’s 2,000 acre land base.
“This ‘friendly exchange agreement’ was an opportunity to be able to have exchanges in economics, in science, in education, in tourism, sports, culture,” Leclerc said.
This recent visit to China was the fourth such trip made by local officials since a tentative arrangement was made with Qinhuangdao in 2013.
Representatives from the Kitselas First Nation went on the China trip as well.
“When we went there it felt like a community on steroids,” Leclerc said about the Qinhuangdao industrial zone. “They’ve built all kinds of high-rises and people are in a better lifestyle I’d say today than what they were.”
Leclerc said that the delegation was assured after a meeting with the Qinghuangdao zone director that everything was on track with regards to the local development project.
The Qinghuangdao zone’s role is to line up the companies who would then build at the park.
“The park is being built on schedule: they’ve designed the roads and the water and the supports for those systems. They’re trying to get more Chinese investors to be in Terrace,” Leclerc said.
“In the later half of this year they’ll be coming to Terrace, the companies and the business people will come and see with their own eyes whether to do business in the park.”
Leclerc also added that the Qinhuangdao zone plans to sell the products developed at the industrial park back to China, the northwest region, or North America more broadly.
The industrial park is currently in the development phase and is supposed to be completed within five years after Taisheng/Qinghuangdao first purchased the land, which was in 2014. Taisheng and other contractors are currently looking to install services on the site, such as drilling for a deepwater-well to provide water to the park.
Leclerc said she asked members of the Qinhuangdao zone if the global economic downturn had been an issue for them and, while they agreed it had, they were still looking forward to expanding and developing the industrial park in Terrace, a project that has the potential to create many local jobs.
NWCC director of student development Holly Hovland and academic head Gordon Weary also spoke at the information session about the college’s desire to expand international education opportunities.
Hovland and Weary were able to visit two post-secondary institutions during the trip, the Hebei Institute of Foreign Languages and the Qinhuangdao Institute of Technology.
“It was super interesting,” Weary said. “It was really for both parties a complete introduction so it was an opportunity just to get a feel for what the challenges would be for integrating into the Chinese culture. We did see there was quite a lot of commonality – it isn’t worlds apart.” However, Weary did say that language barriers could be an issue for the time being.
Hovland said the Qinhuangdao Institute of Technology specifically was a good fit for NWCC because of both colleges’ emphasis on trades, technology and business administration. “It was good to connect with them and spend some time,” Hovland said.
“These introductions were really just the start of it. Where we really need to go is get agents to come in there and do a little bit more targeted recruitment in these places.”
Janet Meyer, director of instruction for the Coast Mountains School District, was part of the delegation and spoke about visiting two middle grade schools and a secondary school while in Qinhuangdao.
Meyer said the next steps could include hiring an official agent to help with recruitment, developing a program so that Chinese students would stay in local homes in the school district and even possibly creating a summer program so that Chinese students could come here and see what the northwest has to offer.
“The highlights from our trip were obviously merely attending, or being part of the delegation,” Meyers said. “Another highlight were the relationships we created, not just in China, but with people in our own community that we really didn’t even know.”