A delegation from Prince Rupert will be visiting China next month and it won’t cost the City one penny.
Thanks to a Provincial Ministry of Community Services grant of $50,000, the City is able to embark on a trade mission.
The purpose of the trip is to establish or review existing twinning relationships, and promote economic development.
Delegates will visit ports and meet with high level municipal and business leaders in Shanghai, Beijing, Ningbo and Prince Rupert’s twin city Cangzhou. In fact, one of the main focuses of the trip will be to reinforce that twinning relationship.
City Council will be represented by Councillors Sheila Gordon-Payne, Gina Garon and Nelson Kinney, along with Economic Development Officer Derek Baker and his predecessor Nellie Cheng, who will travel as Baker’s associate.
“Nellie is fluent in Mandarin and has fostered good connections with both the Chinese government and business people, as well as a working relationship with both federal and provincial government Canadian representatives in China,” City Manager Gordon Howie reported at Monday evening’s council meeting.
While the City has extended invitations to several private business and community groups to accompany the delegation, it has yet to hear if it has any takers.
The cost of sending each person is estimated to be $5000 to cover travel, accommodation, meals and incidentals. That leaves $25,000 and Councillor Gordon-Payne suggested the unused portion of the grant could be used to help others join in the delegation.
“If we complete our pursuit of other partners to travel with us, given that we won’t be needing the full amount, if some are not able to come with us because it is cost prohibitive, I would be happy to use some of the grant to bring other partners along so that we could represent the City as full as possible,” she said.
Councillor Joy Thorkelson, unable to attend because of other commitments, suggested it would be a shame if major companies and corporations in Prince Rupert didn’t take advantage of the offer, if they are unable to afford to pay for the trip themselves.
“To be part of a City Industrial delegation will provide huge opportunities for us as a community,” she said, adding it’s not a tourist jag. “The councillors that are going there are going to be working hard. It’s a working tour and I think it behoves local businesses to join in.”
According to Thorkelson, in addition to the port, delegates will have other features to boast about. “We have a beautiful golf course, mountain and can offer educational opportunities,” she said.
Because Mayor Jack Mussallem will be meeting with some provincial ministries back home at the same time of the tour, he will be unable to attend.
Nevertheless, he also billed the trip as a way to build on many of the trips the Chinese have made to Prince Rupert.
“Certainly it’s an opportunity to provide people in China that have heard of Prince Rupert, with more awareness and the fact that we’re growing and that they’re one of the countries which Prince Rupert as a transportation centre will serve on the Pacific Rim,” the mayor said.
Originally the grant money had to be used by March 2009, but Prince Rupert received an extension until July 1, 2011. The money, clarified Mayor Jack Mussallem, cannot be used for anything else.
The trip will take place June 10 – 19.