Mayor-President Kip Holden took another step Sunday toward establishing an official relationship between Baton Rouge and the Chinese city of Guiyang.
Holden hosted a number of visiting officials from the Chinese city - including Mayor Li Zaiyong - to talk about forming a sister city partnership to boost industrial development, educational opportunities and cultural exchanges.
“It’s a wholesome venture that we’re both very excited about,” Holden said. “Both mayors are signaling a desire to work together to make our residents’ quality of life better.”
“We just want to make both cities proud,” he said.
Li flew to Baton Rouge with a delegation of Chinese officials to meet with Holden in return for Holden’s visit to Guiyang in April 2010.
Holden said talks with Li to form an official relationship between the two cities began during Holden’s visit to China.
There are many ways that Guiyang and Baton Rouge can benefit from streamlining their relationship, Li said through a translator.
“Baton Rouge and Guiyang can cooperate in culture, education, economy, environment and industry,” Li said. “There are great possibilities for exchanges.”
Li said he is also interested in promoting tourism between the cities, adding that the Guiyang area has seen tremendous growth in the number of tourists from the United States and Europe in the last year.
Li said he took a long tour of the city Sunday morning and called the area beautiful with an environment that resembles Guiyang.
“There are a lot of common areas,” Li said.
“I hope Mayor Holden will come to Guiyang as soon as possible to sign a written memorandum,” he said.
Holden said he plans to make a return visit to Guiyang in the next year.
Holden said on this visit, he planned to introduce the delegation to a number of local businessmen to promote opportunities for international employment.
Baton Rouge architect Freddie Boothe was at Sunday’s luncheon, showing the Chinese delegation a presentation of a state-of-the-art retirement center he designed in Beihai, China.
Boothe said Li is interested in building a similar center in Guiyang.
“We want to start a dialogue on what they’re doing in China and what partnerships we can form with the business people,” Holden said.
Educational exchanges will also be a top priority in the agreement with governments in both cities emphasizing and supporting study abroad opportunities at partner universities.
Holden said if Baton Rouge and Louisiana want to improve their economies, there needs to be expansion beyond the U.S. borders.
“When you look at economics in the world, China is at the top,” Holden said. “This is about economic diversity. This is about getting the people in Baton Rouge employed.”
Sunday’s meeting was another in a list of recent visits that Holden has hosted Chinese dignitaries and officials.
In 2009, Chinese business executives associated with Huiheng Medical Inc., which is interested in building whole-body gamma radiation devices for cancer treatment in Baton Rouge, came to the area to further those talks.
Holden said Sunday that venture, which is still in the planning stage because of extensive federal regulations, could bring as many as 300 jobs to the area.
In early 2010, Holden welcomed executives with Pepnice Corp., an LED lighting manufacturer, and Liantronics Co. Ltd., which builds LED display signs. Pepnice and Liantronics are exploring manufacturing sites in Baton Rouge and elsewhere in the state.