Rather than viewing economic giant China as a competitor, Gov. Jerry Brown wants California businesses to see the country as a potential business partner and establish their foreign presence, he told the Bay Area Council Tuesday at 's headquarters in Redwood City.
The Council, a business advocacy group for the Bay Area’s nine counties, has volunteered to help nurture that relationship, promising to open and staff an office in China for the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development by the end of the year.
Though exact costs have yet to be determined, the Council has committed to raising $1 million in private dollars to establish the Shanghai office, said Rufus Jeffris, the Council’s Vice President of Communications.
“This is a very aggressive time frame, but expanding California’s trade has been one of the Bay Area Council’s lead priorities,” Jeffris said.
The creation of a satellite office in China was one of the first acts by the state’s newly created Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, or GO-Biz.
The Governor signed Assembly Bill 2012 at the Bay Area Council’s annual meeting to create GO-Biz, which consolidates all business services into one office to increase efficiency and focus more on California’s business health.
Walnut Creek City Councilman Kish Rajan .
Previously, business was lumped into the Business, Transportation and Housing Department, often overshadowed by the latter two, said Assembly Speaker John Pérez, who sponsored the bill.
“This bill shows the world California is open for business,” said Jim Wunderman, the Bay Area Council’s CEO and President. “We’re going to see California rise up, up and up, and grow jobs.”
The Bay Area Council already has an office in China, so it will be working with GO-Biz to find an appropriate location and site, Jeffris said.
“We’re familiar with the territory,” he added. “We’re still working out details, but GO-Biz could potentially annex some of our offices as the site.”
“This is exactly what the business community has been waiting to enjoy,” Brown said.
The Office will open a Beijing office as well and another in Mexico, the state’s largest trading partner, Pérez said.
The governor also plans to make a visit to China in early 2013, he said.
Re-establishing California’s International Prowess
In 2003, the state closed its Foreign Trade Office in California as well as its international satellite offices due to budget shortfalls, the only state in the nation to run without such an office.
California was the fifth largest economy a decade ago, and has since slipped to ninth, according to Pérez.
“The business community was dismayed,” Wunderman said. “But now we’re going to see that trend reverse.”
“People may whine and complain that we have all these business problems,” Brown said. “But look at Silicon Valley projecting ideas all over the world. We have the power of human imagination right here.”
Brown recalled an early interaction with one of Apple’s technologies.
“I remember when Apple first came out with the ‘mouse’ and I was looking for an animal until someone explained to me what it was,” he laughed.
Speaker Pérez noted that international trade was “not the only reason for the slip, but we’re going to see California coming back.”
In 2011, half of the jobs created in the US were created in California, largely in the tourism and trade industries.
“We succeeded despite a lack of focus,” Pérez said.
That focus will be centered in the GO-Biz department, designed to be a “one stop shop” for business, he said.
For example, the building permit assistance center previously managed by the California Environmental Protection Agency will now reside in the GO-Biz Department.
“We’re going to chop regulation and improve efficiency,” Brown said. “And if anyone can improve efficiency, I can do it.”
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