CONVENT — Ni hao, or “hello” in Chinese, from St. James Parish.
Parish residents might want to brush up their conversational Mandarin skills because the parish government is working to establish a sister county-parish relationship with Dongming County in the Shandong province of the People’s Republic of China.
On Wednesday, the St. James Parish Council unanimously passed a resolution allowing Parish President Timmy Roussel to sign a letter of intent formalizing ties between the parish and Dongming County government.
Dongming County, a region of nearly 700,000 people, is located in northeastern China about 400 miles south of the country’s capital, Beijing.
Notably, Shandong province’s Heze city is headquarters for Shandong Yuhuang Chemical Co. Ltd., whose subsidiary, Yuhuang Chemical Inc., is set to build a $1.85 billion methanol complex in St. James Parish on 1,100 acres of agricultural land along the west bank of the Mississippi River.
In a phone interview Wednesday, parish spokesman Brandon Keller said this “friendship pact” formalizes the relationship between the parish and Chinese governments.
The resolution states the parish and company will jointly promote economic and trade development through conferences, technical cooperation exchanges, trade fairs and business negotiations.
The commitment will allow the corporation to be involved with community and economic development and engage in mutual aid with the local volunteer fire departments, Roussel said at Wednesday’s meeting.
In an email, Yuhuang plant manager Charles Goebel said, “Our Chairman felt it would be a good idea to link the two communities in friendship, economic, social and educational opportunities.”
Keller said the parish entered into a similar “friendship pact” with Grande-Pré, a rural community in Nova Scotia about two decades ago because of both areas’ French ancestries.
The property earmarked for the methanol complex includes the St. James High School building, which Yuhuang purchased last year.
In May, parish residents overwhelmingly supported a $56 million bond issue that will, in part, help fund a new high school construction away from Yuhuang and other industrial sites in the parish.