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January 8, 2011

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All aboard for Changning opportunity

HIGH-SPEED rail is integrating the Yangtze River Delta region. Changning District, known as Shanghai's "Western Gate," is strategically located to lead the way and attract business. Fei Lai boards the train.

All roads and rail lead to Changning District. The district is making full use of its geographic and transport advantages to attract more talented people and businesses in the Yangtze River Delta region.

Changning, known as Shanghai's "Western Gate," is strategically located adjacent to the Hongqiao Transport Hub, where high-speed rail and other transport are integrating the delta's key cities.

"Today, we have a common opportunity to undertake mutual development in this high-speed rail era," says Li Yaoxin, director of Changning District.

"It is high time for more intercity interactions and cooperation within the area," he told a recent forum.

The district has 12 neighboring sister cities in the Yangtze River Delta region and the rail system puts them within easy reach of each other.

Good location

The new rail system is a major reason for a number of enterprises to settle in Changning. Other companies are relocating into emerging cities along the lines.

"In next five years, Changning will be integrated with the Yangtze River Delta through easy transport, an eco-friendly environment, modern services, high quality of life, international appeal and its culture and history," says Li.

Hongqiao Transport Hub links an airport, railway system, subway, intercity highways and expressways. Opened before the start of World Expo Shanghai last May, it strengthens Changning's role in serving the delta region.

Hongqiao Transport Hub turns the Yangtze River Delta into a "well-connected circle," Li says, noting that it brings together talented people, businesses, logistics, capital and information that can be shared. The location facilitates key district projects, including a national import and export trading center for technology, the Hongqiao Global Trade Forum, International Business Forum and the center of the Shanghai Council for the Promotion of Research on International Trade.

Three commodity centers will be established to provide trade, training, finance and logistic services for overseas products, and supply the Yangtze River Delta with international products from France, Italy and the United States.

Almost all business sectors expect a boost with the high-speed rail network.

Business draw

Shanghai New Changning (Group) Co Ltd is a state-owned real estate developer with several major projects in Changning, including Shanghai Multimedia Park, Lingkong Industrial Park (North Area) and various commercial buildings and residences.

"The Yangtze River Delta is a strong economic center in China and an important international gateway in the Asia Pacific. As one of the biggest state-owned groups in Changning, we are fully aware that this linkage can drive innovation," says Feng Wenjing, assistant to the general manager of the development company.

For the past several years, the company has been implementing the strategy of both "going out and bringing in," Feng says.

In terms of bringing in, the Shanghai Multimedia Industry Park has attracted many big brands such as Dell, LG and Suning Appliance.

Lingkong Industrial Park (North Area) is a garden-style setting for high-tech companies and headquarters; it attracts Fortune 500 companies such as Unilever, Bosch and Eton.

The group is actively working on developments in the delta region. It has built villas in Kunshan, Jiangsu Province, residences in Zhenjiang and Yangzhou, also in Jiangsu, and Wenzhou in Zhejiang Province; it has equipped buildings with intelligent energy-saving systems in Hangzhou, Zhejiang and Suzhou and Nantong, both in Jiangsu.

One of the biggest projects is expected to be Huzhou Multimedia Park in Zhejiang, opening in June. Following the model of the Shanghai Multimedia Park, the Huzhou park is oriented toward service sourcing and the information industry.

Feng, who has been with Shanghai New Changning (Group) since graduation from Fudan University in 1999, says the current rail development represents a "golden opportunity for the district to develop its real estate market." He predicts the benefits would be highest for commercial development.

"Changning is characterized by high-end residences. Foreign residents in particular have high requirements for their living environment and cultural attractions," Feng says.

"Convenient transport will definitely lead to larger passenger flows but may create management difficulties as well. It might lead to areas like Gubei losing attraction to high-end consumers."

However, Feng says high-speed rail is especially good news for commercial buildings in Changning. "From transnational companies to private companies, Changning will be their priority," he says.

All in all, reduced intercity travel time by rail makes it practical for companies to expand and connect with neighbor cities in a more effective and profitable way.


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