Regional Growth Partnership Director Dean Monske says there are reasons foreign investors want to bring their families and business operations to Toledo.
“Why Toledo? Because this is a great spot,” Monske said in a presentation to the East Toledo Club during a monthly luncheon at the Weber Block. “They can protect their capital anywhere — New York, L.A., maybe Boston.
“But you start saying, ‘Why do you want to be in those places?’ and mention Midwest mentality, Midwest culture is almost identical to Chinese culture. New York, L.A. — way too different. For people in Shanghai and these huge cities that are there, that’s not the culture of China. They are not flashy out there in those cities — it’s much more subdued.
“Midwest just simply fits better, so that’s a whole lot of great reasons to be here. They never heard of Toledo before until we got there. But you tell them what you have to offer and they come to see for themselves, and they go, ‘Wow, you told us the truth and we kind of like the environment better than New York or L.A’. We still want to go shopping in Chicago, but I’d like to raise my family in Toledo. Six of the families we met with have already moved here and bought homes here.”
He said because of the purchase of the Marina District and The Docks by the Chinese firm Dashing Pacific, international business will be taking on a stronger role in Toledo.
But he found himself responding to questions from guests who asked why they were not seeing vertical construction on the 127-acre property bordered by Front Street and the Maumee River. Dashing Pacific owns approximately half the property with options to buy more.
“A simple way to put it — everything is no different than day one,” Monske said. “They are on track. They are building their development team. They have some people doing domestic and international market studies — a group out of Canada has been involved with that. I’d say the team is pretty well built. I mean, it’s not like things are paused, slowed or stopped — things are moving forward as it should be.
“I should say this — Dashing Pacific was a company that didn’t exist before this started. It was not a company you could go to China and find something on them. We came up with that name, as a matter of fact. I was one of six people who came up with that name, and that’s a reality.
“It’s simply an LLC that was simply formed between Mr. Wu (Wu Kin Hung) and Ms. Yuan (Yuan Ziaohong), who are the principals of Dashing Pacific, that had a relationship in China. They never had anything together, however. They were two of the investors that had an interest. In China, you simply do not see property like that on water like here, especially downtown in a city. That is considered prime, and they were shocked to see that property available.”
Even though market studies are ongoing, he says it is possible a foreign company could bring its headquarters to the Marina District.
“It doesn’t mean you couldn’t bring a corporate world headquarters and put on the site if somebody wanted to do that,” Monske said. “I think, again, like any developer you are going to look for what’s the best use for the property and what’s going to be successful and what’s going to be profitable, along with certainly and especially someone with certain specifics internationally, whether it be China or any other country, coming in and purchasing that land, and what does the community want?
“Two things I want to make clear — first, why do people from China want to come to Toledo? Well, first and foremost, when we do these CEO forums, it’s real simple — it’s the dog and pony show we give them.
“It’s demographics. logistics, and quite honestly it’s national studies and things that will tell you, I don’t care what it is, if you want to design, build or ship, there’s no better spot if you want to come to North America than literally the pinpoint on the map that is Toledo and five hundred kilometers around it. We have more to offer somebody than anywhere else on the globe if you want to come to North America, and it’s not a hard sell.
“So, when you talk about those things that we’ve talked about forever in this community and it’s like clockwork, and the (newspaper) editorials say, ‘We have all these assets — why aren’t we doing anything about it?’ Well, because we’re too busy talking to ourselves. You’ve got to get out and talk to people that need to hear that story, and look what happens. You get people to buy into it.
“So, that’s the first part — that it’s not difficult to get people to come in. When you tell the right story, they want to come do that.
“But, they want two things, as will other international people tell you, but specifically Chinese. (They say), ‘I want to protect capital for future generations.’ If you want to go to China, there is more capitalism going on there than here, but here it’s not for the government to have. Rules change. You can have your wealth today and it can be gone today, plus you can’t own land there.
“So, first and foremost, you have to protect capital and you want to educate your kids. The U.S.A. today is still known as the safest country on the globe and that’s where people from around the globe want their people educated.”