Nashville-area entrepreneurs and companies are looking to cash in on the fast growth of China, now the world’s second-largest economy.
But many are finding that establishing a foothold there requires patience, the right partner, building relationships and understanding that rules governing private enterprises remain a work in progress.
The growth in links between Tennessee and China is evident in trade statistics. Last year, Tennessee’s exports to China totaled $1.86 billion, up 43 percent from 2009. The biggest categories included artificial yarns, fibers and fabrics, cotton and chemicals.
Meanwhile, imports of Chinese-made goods to Tennessee, including computers, cellphones, games and toys, totaled more than $16 billion last year, up 25 percent from 2009.
“It’s a huge trade imbalance that reflects the broader disparity in trade between the two countries,” said Steven Livingston, a political science professor and senior research associate at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro.
Trade issues aside, many Nashville-area companies are benefiting from access to cheaper Chinese-made products, including several that rely on suppliers there for shoes, toys and outdoor products. Others, such as Gibson Guitar, have manufacturing facilities in China.
Here’s a look at three Nashville-area efforts targeting China:
R. Stephen Porter, a Brentwood resident, is among local entrepreneurs pursuing health-care opportunities in China, including in drug development and clinical trials.
John Wu, a Nashville resident who hails from China, is making a mark in the import/export business between the United States and China and has also ventured into property management in China.
Design-consulting firm Gresham, Smith and Partners is gearing up for growth a decade after starting to scout opportunities in China.