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Chinese investment bolsters Nebraska town

By Paul Welitzkin in New York | China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-06-26 09:55

For Hardy Shao, the president of Worldlawn Power Equipment Inc, it has been quite a journey the last six years as he and his employees have rescued a commercial lawn equipment manufacturer and saved jobs in Beatrice, Nebraska.

"This is a beautiful and very good community. I have been welcomed by the people here," Shao said on Friday, marking the formal opening of the company's new facility in this town of about 12,000 located 40 miles south of Lincoln, the state capital.

"We really have a dedicated team of employees here who genuinely want this company to succeed. They work hard and focus on what they do. When I come into the office, I really enjoy being here every day,' he continued.

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts, Beatrice Mayor Stan Wirth and others attended a ribbon-cutting in the 274,000-square-foot facility that is triple the size of the previous building.

"We have a lot of room to grow and the next step is to do powder coating and welding to expand which means we will be able to hire more people," Shao said.

Worldlawn has more than 30 employees.

In 2011, Worldlawn, which is a unit of Jiangsu World Plant-Protecting Machinery Co Ltd in Danyang city in Jiangsu province, acquired the former Encore lawn mower plant in Beatrice.

Worldlawn manufactures outdoor power equipment including professional commercial lawnmowers (riding, stand-on and walk-behind lawnmowers), residential lawnmowers (riding mowers), and snow throwers.

"This was a company that was on the ropes and they needed assistance. When they purchased the former Encore manufacturing (site), the community really embraced the idea, and it is a tribute to Hardy Shao and his staff that they integrated themselves into the community and have become good community partners," said Mayor Wirth.

Wirth said the investment is a reason why he supports expanded foreign trade and investment.

"We need to continue to reach out to other countries for their investment. Foreign investment is a good thing - it's not a bad thing," he said.

The governor also used the occasion to underline the important role that foreign investment plays.

"Worldlawn's expansion with this new facility in Beatrice is a great example of how international engagement helps bring investment and jobs to our state and shows the world that Nebraska is open for business," Ricketts said.

About two weeks ago, the governor helped to load a shipping container bound for Shanghai. Ricketts was at a refrigerated loading dock helping to send boxes of steaks that were part of the first shipment of US beef headed to China under the terms of a new trade agreement.

"If we can capture the same share of the (beef) market in China as we have in some other countries, it could mean $200 million in annual sales for the state of Nebraska. Nebraska is the largest beef-exporting state in the country, with about $1.1 billion annually. The Chinese are going to find we have the best beef in the world," Ricketts said.

Ricketts, who was sworn in as Nebraska's 40th governor in 2015, would like to see the Trump administration tread carefully when it comes to foreign trade.

"We want to make sure that the relationships we have with other countries include a level playing field," he said. "But we also want to make sure we don't disrupt the relationships we already have with China, which is our second-largest export market outside of North America and the fastest growing."

Nebraska is an agricultural powerhouse in the US. Besides cattle, the state is known for its corn crop and a thriving agricultural products and services sector. Ricketts believes the state has other opportunities to expand trade with China.

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