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Bay Area: China's gateway to United States

WITH 30 years of sister city relations, a highly educated work force and international business facilities, San Francisco is an important gateway for Chinese companies expanding into North America.

The close economic and cultural ties between the cities provide a unique business platform, and many Chinese companies have chosen to set up operations in the Bay Area in the past few years.

Moreover, because more than 25 percent of the city's population is of Chinese ancestry, there is no other place in North America where Chinese businessmen and businesswomen will feel more comfortable and welcome, according to ChinaSF - a joint public and private initiative that helps companies set up or invest between China and San Francisco.

The area is an international hub for pioneering and forward-thinking industries such as life sciences and health care, information technology and digital media, clean technology, financial and professional services, iPDR (integrated production, distribution and repair), retail and hospitality, international commerce and film.

"Among these, solar-tech manufacturing and biotech are two sectors with substantial growth prospects in both the Chinese and American markets," says Ginny Fang, director of ChinaSF.

ChinaSF is under the San Francisco Center for Economic Development and operates in close partnership with the city of San Francisco. It is funded entirely by its private sector partners and has offices in San Francisco and Shanghai. Their Shanghai office helps San Francisco businesses navigate China's unique business culture and climate, including support for appropriate Chinese government relations and protocol.

Since its official opening in November 2008, ChinaSF has had the notable success of attracting five of China's top solar companies to San Francisco, making the city the North American capital for the Chinese solar industry. By the end of 2009 it had attracted 10 Chinese companies to San Francisco, including Shanghai life sciences consulting firm SPRIM, which has chosen to base its international headquarters in San Francisco.

SPRIM has offices in 15 cities worldwide and employs over 400 staff.

Other companies of note with a presence in San Francisco include Suntech America based in Wuxi in Jiangsu Province, the world's third-largest solar cell maker; and Yingli Green Energy headquartered in Baoding in Hebei Province, one of the world's leading photovoltaic product manufacturers.

Factors that attract Chinese companies to San Francisco include innovation, intellectual capital and "the world's best employees because of its unparalleled quality of life," says Fang.

The City of San Francisco acts through its Office of Economic and Workforce Development to support the ongoing economic vitality of San Francisco with incentives such as help navigating city government, access to tax credits and other funding, employee recruitment and training, and site location.

The Shanghai-San Francisco sister city relationship has benefited both cities economically because of the involvement of all three main sectors of society including government, business and citizens, says Fang. "Exchanges take place in virtually all areas of the community - sports, art, culture, education, government and business - all of which have contributed to increased foreign direct investment, business partnerships and cross-cultural dialogue."

Contact the San Francisco-Shanghai Sister City Committee at 415-333-6800 or for more details about San Francisco Week and environmental initiatives in Shanghai and World Expo on June 17-25.


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