Alabaster mayor, senator taking economic development trip to China
Published 10:13 am Thursday, September 24, 2015
By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor
ALABASTER – State Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, and Alabaster Mayor Marty Handlon are used to recruiting retail and light industrial companies to the city, but they will have a chance at promoting economic development on a larger scale in late October.
Beginning Oct. 25, Ward and Handlon will fly to Qionglai City in China’s Sichuan providence to sign a sister city agreement between Qionglai and Alabaster, and to promote Alabaster to Chinese companies looking to expand, Handlon told City Council members during a Sept. 23 work session.
Qionglai is a city of more than 600,000 people, according to the city’s website, and is a suburb of the Sichuan capital city of Chengdu.
The trip came about after government officials in Qionglai contacted Alabaster to pursue the sister city agreement, and offered to fund the local officials’ trip to China, Ward said during a Sept. 24 interview.
“They reached out to us,” Ward said, noting Qionglai officials “heavily researched” Alabaster’s growth before proposing the sister city agreement. “When we get there, we will sign a memorandum of understanding making us sister cities, and the next day we will tour plants that are looking to expand.”
While there, Handlon and Ward also will make a presentation detailing Alabaster and its possibilities for economic development.
“They are exploring possible areas to come over and invest,” Handlon said, noting Alabaster is not planning to fund a visit to Alabaster by Qionglai officials. “It’s a pretty big economic deal.”
Ward said he and Handlon will particularly look to tout Alabaster’s unfilled commercial parks, and will explain the city’s location on Interstate 65.
“We’ve got Airbus down in Mobile, we’ve got Mercedes to the west. There is a real chance for us to be suppliers to those companies,” Ward said. “(Qionglai) is really interested in Alabaster and the growth we’ve had.
“This is a really good opportunity. This will put Alabaster on the international map,” Ward said. “Obviously, we’ve seen a lot of growth with retail and light industrial, but to get attention from international companies says Alabaster is ready to stand on its own outside of the Birmingham-area market.”