Murrieta Mayor Rick Gibbs embarked on a two-week trip to China on Thursday to seek foreign investment to create jobs in the city and the region.
Gibbs is expected to return to Murrieta on April 18 after visiting with provincial officials and business leaders in four Chinese provinces. The City Council in February voted to cover the cost of the trip, which is expected to cost approximately $2,500, according to Gibbs.
“It’s really about a labor of love for the city of Murrieta and trying to help us in matters of economic development, which really are geared at providing jobs for our community,” Gibbs said.
After arriving at the Shanghai Pudong International Airport from LAX and staying a night at a hotel in the city, Gibbs said he planned to travel to Heilongjiang Province, which is located in the northeastern part of the country on the Russian border. Next he will travel to Liaoning, located near North Korea; Henan, in the central part of the country; and Anhui, located west of Shanghai.
“For the four provinces that I will be in, [my hosts] will be introducing me to provincial officials, I will get an opportunity to present the city of Murrieta and the region to them, and make the case for why we’re a good place to invest,” Gibbs said.
This is Gibbs’ third trip to China to promote the region as an area for development. His first trip was part of the nation's EB-5 program, which encourages investment in U.S.-based projects. During his second trip in 2011, the city and Shaoxing County entered into a memorandum of understanding in an effort to increase trade, culture and education between the two regions.
During his current trip, Gibbs said he plans to also meet with Roy Paulson of Temecula-based Paulson Manufacturing, who will be in China on his own business, and travel together to Shaoxing County.
“China is a place where relationships are cultivated over time,” Gibbs said. “Most westerners go to China and think that it’s going to be exactly like here – that you strike up a conversation, you find you have an interest in doing business together, you get your lawyer involved, you write a contract, you sign a contract and there you go. That’s not the way it works in China. In fact, that’s not the way it works in most of the world.”
There is a lot of Chinese investment coming to the U.S., Gibbs said, but most investors look to larger cities like New York and Los Angeles.
“By us reaching out to Chinese investors, we are making them familiar with the city of Murrieta,” Gibbs said. “Murrieta is a business-friendly city that has an entrepreneurial spirit in City Hall. … We have a young, educated, affluent workforce in an area where the cost of land and construction are relatively cheap.”
The trip will cost the city about $2,500 for airfare and transportation, lodging, and meals when Gibbs is not being entertained, he explained. Gibbs added that most two-week trips to China would cost roughly $5,000, but his years of experience in international travel while in the military and in his civilian career has made him comfortable with traveling the country via subway, train and bus to help cut costs.
Gibbs said $2,500 is “an investment in the future.” He noted that 66 percent of the Murrieta workforce commutes long distances to San Diego, Orange, Riverside and Los Angeles counties for work, so the city needs more job opportunities, particularly high-tech opportunities.
“How can we say we value quality of life when two-third of our citizens are on the road for two-hour commutes each way, everyday of the work week?”
“The people are entitled to know how we spend their money,” Gibbs said. “We are looking at this particular trip as a small investment in economic development that we hope will pay off with large returns downstream.”