Eastern expedition should open doors for Falkirk

The Falkirk delegation at Yueqing International Foreign Language School
The Falkirk delegation at Yueqing International Foreign Language School

The Kelpies have been acting as ambassadors to open borders and foster links between the Falkirk district and China.

A fact-finding mission to the world’s most populated country led by Falkirk Council earlier this month helped build relations between the area and officials in the cities of Shanghai, Hangzhou and Yueqing.

The local authority was visiting at the invitation of the Chinese after similar visits by them to Falkirk in recent years, where they toured businesses and schools, as well as the Falkirk Wheel and Callendar House.

But it was the unveiling of the Kelpies last month which helped prompt the return visit, along with the TIF (Tax Incremental Financing) initiative which will allow the council to borrow £67 million and unlock investment over the next 25 years.

Councillor Craig Martin, Falkirk Council leader, who headed the party along with chief executive Mary Pitcaithly, said the timing was right for the visit.

He said: “We wanted to have something tangible to offer: to show what Falkirk stands for and what we are looking to do in the future.

“It was also a relationship building exercise as the Chinese believe it is important to do business after a friendship has been formed.

“We were able to highlight what we could offer anyone thinking of investing in the area and used a video of the building of the Kelpies as an example of what is going on in the district.

“Everyone was very impressed and it was perfect timing given that this is the Year of the Horse in the Chinese calendar.”

Douglas Duff, the council’s head of economic development said: “The construction of the Kelpies reinforced the message of skill and what we can offer. China is going to be the world’s biggest economy this year, overtaking the United States, and it is important that we are setting up these links.

“The province we were visiting has a population of 77 million and officials there are well versed in how to deal with western businesses. However, Hangzhou is what could be described as from a range of second tier cities who are largely untapped in western connections.

Councillor Martin, along with colleagues Provost Pat Reid and councillors Dennis Goldie and Malcolm Nicol were all invited to visit China, each of them agreeing to pay for the trip from their own pocket. Unfortunately, ill health ruled out the Provost and Mr Goldie from attending.

Along with Mrs Picaithly and Mr Duff, council official Matthew Farrel made the week-long trip, accompanied by Ken Thomson, principal of Forth Valley College, Helen McCulloch, head teacher at Braes High School, Douglas Cameron of Eden Consultancy, Peter and Irene Duncan of Allied International and James Brodie of the China Britain Business Council (CBBC).

Four agreements were signed between the council, the college and the CBBC, while visits to several businesses, including the Delixi and Huayi Groups took place, along with a meeting at the Yueqing International Foreign Language School.

There was also an inward investment event for businesses, government officials and business support agencies where the keynote address was given by Brian Davidson, the British Consul-General in Shanghai.

Mr Martin added: “It was definitely worth going, for fact-finding and to build relations for the future.”