Ann Arbor startup China Bridge to build business relations between Michigan and China
A new Ann Arbor global business growth and development firm is building a two-way bridge between the United States and China to assist businesses in both countries gain a foothold and expand.
China Bridge launched Monday with offices on the edge of downtown - and with a Grand Rapids office opening in two weeks.
The company will begin with China, but its holding company, Bridges International Network, expects to expand with Mexico Bridge by the end of the year and eventually with Africa Bridge.
At the same time, a separate, non-profit company will work to improve conditions in these developing countries.
China Bridge also hopes to pave the way for a small center for international companies looking to invest in the area in offices adjacent to China Bridge, at 123 N. Ashley. The goal is to have the center operational within 18 months.
While China Bridge will work with American companies that want to establish operations or grow in China, its major thrust will be helping Chinese companies establish a presence in the United States - especially in Michigan and the Midwest - and working with companies to find markets in China, said C. Peter Theut, president and chief executive officer.
About three-quarters of the business will be directed at helping Chinese business establish or expand U.S. operations or introducing American businesses to opportunities in China, especially in the areas of environmental cleanup and alternative energy, Theut said.
The time is ripe to lure Chinese investment to Michigan, Theut said. The Chinese government is encouraging business to invest outside their country and businesses have money to invest.Â
For example, te western Chinese city of Chongqing, with 34 million people, is interested in Michigan because of its automotive history, Theut said.Â Chongqing is transitioning from manufacturing motorcycles to making cars.
Â “Cities in the center of China are very welcoming to foreign investment and are interesting in reaching out. They are looking to invest in the West,” Theut said. “We want to be part of that movement. We want to see that Michigan gets its fair share of that investment.”
Theut retired last summer as a partner and shareholder with Butzel Long law firm in Ann Arbor, where he worked on China-focused business operations.Â
He’s been to China 50 times in the past eight years, he said. But China Bridge will provide much broader services than a law office, with legal, financial, operational and governmental relations services, Theut said.
China Bridge, which already has about 20 clients on its roster, will work with a diverse group of mid-size ($20 to $100 million in gross revenue) to billion-dollar companies in areas such as real estate, construction, technology and manufacturing investment.
China Bridges work will include:
â€¢ Creating business and developing business plans.
â€¢ Identifying partners for labor, marketing, financial and sales initiatives.
â€¢ Help with government and legal issues.
The non-profit Global Community Outreach will raise funds for humanitarian efforts in China, Mexico and eventually Africa, Theut said, that will supply clean drinking water and establish simple field clinics in remote areas.
Â “China Bridge will act as a fundraiser through its clientele,” Theut said. “We will act as the facilitator.”Â
Global Community Outreach has applied for non-profit (501(c)(3)) status, Theut said, and has already raised $80,000 for projects in China.
Â “We not only want to do business for profit in countries, we want to help with infrastructure and humanitarian issues,” Theut said. “What we are are social entrepreneurs.”
Joining China Bridge’s Ann Arbor office is Jerome Hill as senior vice president/director, and Jennifer Feng-Smith as vice president/director for affiliate relations. Hill most recently was counsel to Butzel Long for its China Initiative and Feng-Smith is a former global trade advisor for Butzel Long.