On Tuesday, Nevada and China signed a memorandum of understanding in Phoenix, Ariz. to build a working relationship and entice the Chinese government to make investments in Nevada that will result in renewable energy, mining, manufacturing and tourism projects and, as a result, local job creation.
A Chinese investment delegation, comprised of interested government and business officials, traveled into the United States on Monday, visiting Phoenix, Las Vegas and Reno. On Wednesday, the group heard from Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, chairman of the Nevada Commission of Economic Development, and local companies about renewable energy and opportunities to save time and money on international air freight by shipping cargo from China directly to Reno-Tahoe International Airport.
“We have the ability to make Nevada the gateway from east to west,” Krolicki said. “This is the portal to Nevada’s great story.”
China has a five-year plan involving renewables, including wind, solar, biogas and hydropower, to account for 10 percent of its energy consumption by 2010 and 15 percent by 2020.
The delegates also heard from other Nevada businesses, including Buena Vista Iron Ore Mining, Berken Energy, Roadrunner Solar and Fulcrum Energy, which made presentations with the help of translators.
Another commercial investment opportunity is increasing efficiency in air freight. Currently, Chinese cargo is sent to the San Francisco or Los Angeles airports and exported to Reno by truck. The Reno-Tahoe International Airport is a back-up in case of poor weather conditions.
Krys Bart, president and CEO of the airport authority, said shipping Chinese cargo to Reno directly would be a boon for the local economy and a significant savings in cost and time for China.
“The airport is an economic generator,” she said. “We focus on stabilizing the economy by diversity and here comes an opportunity to bring cargo in and out of China. We have demonstrated to the Chinese that they can bring their cargo directly into our airport rather than LAX or SFO."
When cargo goes to SFO or LAX, the shipments must be unloaded from the plane, loaded onto trucks and driven up to Reno to be reloaded onto another plane. Bart said a direct flight into Reno would represent a 30 percent cost savings.
The airport also is ideally situated and equipped for Chinese freight, being located just off the Interstate 80 and with runways that handle Boeing 747 freighters, Bart said.
Bart said the relationship with China has been in the works for several years.
China is Nevada’s third largest export market, creating $479 million in sales. In 2008, Nevada exports to China cost more than $372 million. Among the top exports from the Silver State to China are copper ores, measuring and checking instruments and coin/token-operated machines.
“Whether it’s domestic or foreign air service, it’s about trust,” she said.
The delegates were also interested in Nevada’s abundant sources of renewable energy. Steve Olsen, president and CFO of Carson City company ElectraTherm, gave a presentation about the possibilities of providing heat-to-power systems for helping China diversify its energy market.
“From a sales perspective, China is an enormous market,” Olsen said. “It’s a large market opportunity to share our product and become manufacturing partners.”
One delegate, Madame Zhong Yanquen, the deputy director of the Shanghai World Expo, said Nevada’s gaming industry contributes to Nevada’s impact.
She also said Nevada was the first state to acquire a tourism license in China. The Nevada Commission of Tourism has an office based in Beijing, at which Karen (Hongxia) Chen is the chief representative.
“We’ve come here to have a look at Nevada and some of the investment opportunities and find out the competitiveness of Nevada,” she said through a translator. “We hope we can weather this crisis together. We know in Nevada, the tourism industry is quite advanced and we hope it will drive corporate investment in Reno.”