out of context

whereever you go, there you are.

Who is Sunpu-Opto? / 宁波升谱光电半导体有限公司是谁啊?

leave a comment »

Cleveland is my hometown, my destination for law school, and a city in an economic tailspin. Beginning in the 1970’s, the decline of heavy manufacturing, white flight to the suburbs and demographic shifts to the American west and southwest combined to create a perfect storm of urban decay, throwing what was once the country’s third-most important city into third-tier has-been status. The past three decades have been a combination of abortive attempts to arrest the decline and to shift the city’s development in a new direction. As it stands, Cleveland has perhaps 400,000 residents in the borders of the city, a couple million in the ‘greater cleveland’ area, and no particular focus economically now that the LeBron James economic stimulus package has concluded.

Home sweet home.

The latest scheme to be hatched in hopes of bringing some innovation or at least some new jobs to Cleveland is Mayor Frank Jackson’s plan to award a 10-year no-bid contract for LED lighting to the Ningbo Shengpu Lighting Company, known in English as Sunpu-Opto. The reaction of most Clevelanders was predictable: “WHO? Why award an exclusive, no-bid, ten-year contract on a relatively new product to a relatively, no, completely unknown Chinese company, when General Electric has a lighting-focused industrial park with historic ties to the city, which, by the way, employs 1,200 people? You’re selling our city to the Chinese!”

I can understand the anti-China sentiment. This is a city that knows China chiefly as a destination for what may have once been their jobs or the jobs of their family and friends. There is only a small Asian population and I have no idea how active actual ties are between them and China. In the legal community, two of the major downtown law firms are heavily involved in China, and at least one of the smaller firms is as well, but blue-collar workers, which Cleveland has historically been built upon, have little love in their hearts for China, nor for seemingly ‘unfair’ foreign investment schemes that leave American companies out in the cold. Even given all that background, I think attracting foreign investment to Cleveland is an absolute imperative if the city is ever going to experience growth, let alone arrest its slow and steady decline. Cities in transition need shocks to their system.

However, is this move by the mayor and city council (which apparently supports the mayor, who is the former council president) the best way to advertise Cleveland as open for FDI? Jackson has said he’s advancing a new paradigm of city development: If you want Cleveland to make an investment in you, you need to make an investment in Cleveland. From a purely pragmatic standpoint, that’s not a bad idea. But no-bid contracts have a funny way of hurting people’s feelings, and Cleveland has had such a lovely history with hurt feelings and major benefactors packing their bags and leaving: Rockefeller (yes, 30 Rock could have been in Cleveland, but where would Liz Lemon have gone in the ‘Cleveland’ episode? Milwaukee?), Art Modell and the Browns, LeBron (not yet, but…)…do we want to add GE to that list? Is that even a real risk, or is GE just blowing smoke?

I wonder what Dan Gilbert thinks of this. Where will the HQ be located? Is there a master plan, a way to bring more business in, or are we really just grasping at any opportunity that presents itself? I really want to see more foreign business in Cleveland, and I’m not going to shy away from throwing some serious incentives at companies to invest in Cleveland, but how in the world is Sunpu-Opto suddenly the best or even the only option for this sort of agreement? Another company, Fawoo, has indicated it could relocate its US operations from Akron to Cleveland in Sunpu’s place. Cleveland’s government says they looked at Fawoo but weren’t satisfied. Company officials reject Cleveland’s reasons. Who’s telling the truth? Who stands to gain?

Advertisements

Written by Michael

May 18, 2010 at 4:13 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: