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November Martinez Mayor' Message

Nov 02, 2015 03:48PM ● By Rob Schroder

Rob Schroder

If you ask any mayor, councilmember, or city manager what they would most like to have more of at their disposal, I bet it would be more resources to provide municipal services. Resources include income from taxes and fees, as well as investment in the community by businesses and individuals. In order to increase available resources, most cities have at least one employee dedicated to economic development. Unfortunately, Martinez does not currently have such a position, but it will consider an economic development program after the first of the year. In the meantime, Martinez relies on the Martinez Chamber of Commerce, Main Street Martinez, and the efforts of individual council members and the city manager to promote economic development when opportunities arise. My recent trip to China with other Bay Area mayors was one of those opportunities.

About six months ago, Pittsburg Mayor Pete Longmire and San Pablo Mayor Kathy Chao Rothberg announced at the Contra Costa Mayors Conference that they had both recently returned from a trip to China that was organized and hosted by a non-profit known as China Silicon Valley. They briefly reported on their trip and the economic benefit it could have for each of our cities. They extended an invitation to all Contra Costa mayors to be part of an autumn trip planned for late September. After speaking with Pete and Kathy, I decided to contact China Silicon Valley for more information. The following week I met with Victor Wong, president of the organization, who outlined the goals and itinerary for the autumn trip, and I decided that attending would be an economic development opportunity for Martinez.

On September 19, a group of fourteen Bay Area mayors, accompanied by business leaders and the staff of China Silicon Valley, traveled to Beijing and on to Yancheng. The group included Tim Grayson of Concord, Ken Carlson of Pleasant Hill, Brant Anderson of Lafayette, Ken Chu of Moraga, Robert Storer of Danville, Eve Philips of Orinda, and the mayors of Stockton, Menlo Park, Sunnyvale, Alameda, and Morgan Hill.

Our meetings in Yancheng were the first in a series with Chinese city and county mayors, high-level party members and business leaders. Each of the Bay Area mayors had the opportunity to introduce their city to our Chinese hosts and provide written material (translated to Mandarin) for their review. We also toured many manufacturing plants and technology and data centers. Most days started with breakfast meetings, followed by visits to several parts of the host city, and ended with formal banquets hosted by the local Chinese government.

After two days in Yancheng, we traveled to Shanghai and on to Chengdu, in the far western portion of China. While in Chengdu, we were honored guests at the 2015 Western China Overseas High Tech and High Talents Conference. This conference focused on emerging technologies and attracting talented professionals to China to contribute to economic growth and improvement.  Sustainability and cleaning up the environment was a major topic.

After five days in the Chengdu area, about half of the Bay Area mayors group left for home and the other half, including me, traveled on to Guangzhou (Canton) for our last series of meetings and facility tours. We then traveled to Hong Kong, where we caught our flight home to San Francisco.

Since returning home, many people have asked if I felt the trip was successful and beneficial to Martinez. I believe that the contacts we made with business and government leaders in China will be of some benefit to all of the cities that participated, as long as we continue fostering the relationships that have just begun. Just a few weeks after returning home, I was among a group of several mayors who helped welcome Chengdu City Mayor Tang Liangzhi to the Bay Area. I expect this to be the first of many visits from our new friends in China.

Rob Schroder