OPINION: Learn from vibrant Yantai 

LAST week I returned from Yantai city in the Shandong Province of China after being part of a Hunter delegation focused on fostering a mutually beneficial business and cultural alliance between Newcastle and Yantai.

I am confident a strong partnership between our two cities will offer economic and cultural benefits to our region.

While in Yantai, our group, including new lord mayor Jeff McCloy, chairman of the Hunter Business Chamber Richard Anicich, Newcastle businessman Keith Stronach, Joss De Iuliis, from De Iuliis wines, and Jo Zhoe, from the China Australia Mining Development Alliance, took part in multiple meetings with local and regional government officials, as well as key business leaders.

Our group visited the China Coal Expo 2012, in Beijing, and numerous sites in Yantai, including the Yantai Economic and Technological Development Zone, the Yantai Museum and Culture Centre, the Changyu Wine Museum and Yantai University.

On the trip, the mayors of Yantai and Newcastle signed a memorandum of understanding to establish strong economic and cultural ties between the two cities.

Another agreement established a formal relationship between the Hunter Business Chamber and its equivalent in Yantai city.

We also had Phil Cox from Hunter TAFE on our delegation, and he signed a contract with Kunming Metallurgy College China. The contract will ensure further training opportunities for students in both cities. I hope further partnerships will be forged.

Already there are intentions to discuss hotel co-development in Newcastle and the broader Hunter Valley and co-operation in wine-country tourism.

We also foresee the development of an Aussie/Hunter precinct in Yantai city.

Jeff McCloy and other delegation members supported a China Town joint investment opportunity in the Newcastle CBD. Visiting Yantai provided our group with a framework for the concept, should it be supported by councillors. After experiencing the vibrancy of Yantai, I lend my strong support to this concept as a way of further improving our cultural links with the Chinese and to the economic benefit of our city.

Chinese business is steeped in tradition and also takes the long view. Accordingly, our developing relationship will be strategic in nature. The delegation is confident that a very beneficial relationship with Yantai will be established.

Newcastle leaders could learn a lot from Yantai, a city home to a major transport hub, manufacturing, wine production and a centre for education. With the continued support of former Yantai local and now Newcastle resident Joe Zhoe, we have been able to open doors to the lucrative Chinese market. Our visit ensured Newcastle and the Hunter are poised to engage in a new chapter of growth with our Asian neighbours.

Tim Owen is the state member for Newcastle.

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