The enthusiasm bubbled as Mayor John Schultz and Adams County Economic Development Director Larry Macklin discussed at Tuesday night's Decatur City Council meeting their trip to China last week.
Both men labeled the trip highly successful and at one point Macklin talked about "a definite lead towards cultivating a possible new business" in Decatur.
Macklin and Schultz were part of a contingent of some 25 people, led by Lt.-Gov. Becky Skillman, who flew to China on June 11 and returned June 17. It was strictly a business trip, the 25th made over the years by Indiana leaders to cultivate business and cultural opportunities with the Chinese.
Both men were no doubt still experiencing some jet lag and Schultz said, "Before our next (council) meeting we'll have a more detailed summary of what we did. We want to get with John Sampson (head of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, who also made the trip) to discuss some things."
Still, Macklin offered some solid details, including the fact that Decatur is moving toward a sister city relationship with Jiaojiang. He said it is possible that a Jiaojiang delegation may visit Decatur yet this year "to take us a step closer, another level, to signing the ultimate sister city agreement."
Also a good bet for the future is a direct relationship to a Jiaojiang Sister School for Adams and Jay county schools.
"Folks, it was simply a great trip," Macklin began. "It was a successful trip in all ways we hoped for. We came away with great opportunities for Decatur, Adams County and Northeast Indiana."
The timing, Macklin said, was perfect. "They (the leaders of Zhejiang Provence) were prepared for each and every stop we made. This area of China is ready to work with Northeast Indiana and us."
The signing of the Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) to begin forming the sister city relationship was the highlight, Macklin said. "...In today's economic world, developing a foreign community relationship makes a powerful statement to others who may look to us. It says we have built a two-way trust. There is now a willingness to participate in trade and educational opportunities. That was clearly evident as we worked through the short week packed with formal table business discussions, plant visits and other formal events."
In three days, Macklin and Schultz — with the assistance of an interpreter, of course — participated in 11 events and three formal banquets. Included were seven business discussions and exchanges and a 25th anniversary (of Indiana trips to China) trade seminar.
"We came away with two good opportunities for educational discussions and with offers to work toward formal educational exchanges among teachers and students. This is important if we want to build upon economic development," Macklin noted.
The Chinese culture offers a lot of ceremony and pomp, Macklin said, and each event was rewarded with either a gift exchange or a banquet or both.
Schultz said some 30 of the 175th anniversary coins made for Decatur's celebration last year were placed in cases made by Eckhart Woodworking of Monroe and most were given out by the two Decatur men. And, of course, they brought home several gifts from the Chinese.
"I would like to be more specific with some of the business/trade discussions, but cannot yet," Macklin said in closing. "I hope you understand. We want to continue working with the Regional Economic Development Partnership and, hopefully, will have more news as we go forward."