By Amy Wenk

Sandy Springs Mayor Eva Galambos, City Councilmember Tibby DeJulio and City Manager John McDonough traveled with city business representatives to Taicang, China, between Nov. 29 and Dec. 5 on an economic development trip and to promote Friendship City relationship between the two cities.

Among their activities in Taicang, the group visited the Chinese city’s port, the Trane factory (where air-conditioning units are produced), the high school and participated in an official signing ceremony and banquet.

Taicang is a coastal city in the Jiangsu Province of China, 40 miles to the northwest of Shanghai. The 2007 population was 463,800 and urban residents compose 62 percent of the total population.

“Taicang is a city on the move!” declared Galambos. “They have a vast industrial development zone that is filling up with major manufacturing firms from Germany, the U.S. and other countries. The port is totally modern and will eventually be important as the Shanghai port reaches capacity.” According to the mayor, it is a deep-water port and can accommodate any size ship. There is a large container storage area at the port.

“We visited the high school that has the highest standards for entrance in Taicang and has about 1,800 students,” Galambos said. “They go to school from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. We got there at 3 p.m. when the entire student body comes out to run for 20 minutes throughout the campus, in order to unwind.” The school is very interested in student exchange, according Galambos. “Our Sandy Springs North Springs and Riverwood high schools have both indicated a strong interest in student exchange. Also North Springs is interested in beginning a course on Mandarin language.”

The group also visited the District of Luwan, in central Shanghai, where Roswell Mayor Jere Wood’s brother Ben Wood has been the chief architect of “a gorgeous redevelopment of a dilapidated old area into what is now the highest rent district in Shanghai,” she said. The Luwan officials are interested in return visit to Sandy Springs. Taicang dignitaries visited Sandy Springs in May and will return in 2010.

“My purpose in this endeavor is to open the doors to mutual trust, which is the basis for trade and economic ties,” said Galambos. “Taicang is hoping to attract American investment in more manufacturing. Of course UPS has a big presence in the area already. JAS Forwarding may have an interest in the port, and we have other exporters who may have an interest.

“I am hoping that the Chinese firms that will eventually open trade offices in the U.S. will choose Sandy Springs,” Galambos added. “We are not a manufacturing area, but we are well suited to be the site of their distribution offices.”

UPS, Coca-Cola and CH2M Hill sponsored the trip; no residents’ tax monies were used. Representatives from local businesses and the Sandy Springs/Perimeter Chamber of Commerce were also attended, including: Dr. Jack Chen, Northside Hospital chair and medical director of cardiology; Patrick Ko, chairman and CEO of Firstrust Group, Inc.; Sherri Wilburn, president of the Sandy Springs/Perimeter Chamber; Olivia Wu, East West Bank relationship manager; Mark Ye, EA International Ltd. founder and CEO, and Mary Zhou, UPS public affairs manager, Eastern China.