SCV business leaders gather for China roundtable

The Doing Business in China Trade Leaders Roundtable held at the College of the Canyons University Center in Valencia on Tuesday , January 07, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal
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Companies in the Santa Clarita Valley had a unique opportunity to meet with representatives from the U.S. Commercial Service to discuss doing business in China.

Business leaders were joined by Cynthia Griffin, a senior commercial officer in China, and Rachid Sayouty, director of the U.S. Export Assistance Center in Los Angeles, who led a Doing Business in China Trade Leaders Roundtable on Jan. 7 at College of the Canyons.

The roundtable, which was hosted by the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corporation, gave business leaders the opportunity to discuss relevant topics with experts.

“(The SCVEDC) is here to help attract new businesses to the Santa Clarita Valley and help the businesses that are here to expand and grow their businesses, (as well as) grow jobs here in the Santa Clarita Valley, so obviously opportunities for export and better relationships overseas can be a part of that equation,” said Holly Schroeder, president and CEO of the SCVEDC.

Since 1949, U.S. and China’s diplomatic relations have continued to evolve with growing rivalry as the countries’ international economies continue to intertwine. Over the last four decades, these once-limited relations have strengthened, yet U.S. companies still face many challenges when doing business in China.

“China’s obviously a huge market, and we have companies that are already doing business there and others looking to continue to expand their business there. The more they understand the resources available to them, as well as the dynamics in China, the more successful they can be,” Schroeder added.

Cynthia Griffin, Senior Commercial Officer-China US and Foreign Commercial Service, U.S. Department of Commerce speaks during the Doing Business in China Trade Leaders Roundtable held at the College of the Canyons University Center in Valencia on Tuesday , January 07, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

Though many in attendance were business leaders, others worked with China’s international students, such as academic director of College of the Canyons’ International Services and Programs Department, Tim Honadel.

“International students are a $40 billion a year export market in the United States, and here in Santa Clarita (we’re at) about $2 million a year,” Honadel said, referring just to the Chinese students alone.

Whether for workers or students, a number of participants, including Honadel, who broached the subject, discussed the trouble with getting travel visas approved.

This was of interest to Ron Griffin, CEO of The Attraction Services Company in Valencia, as his company, which does large show action and special effects for the theme parks, is currently installing two shows in Beijing for Universal Studios.

“(We) were in China for three weeks and just got back before Christmas, and we have a crew of about 10 guys over there right now as we speak,” Griffin said. “We’ve had a lot of difficulty and unable to get correct information on getting visas for our American workers to go to China to do the theme park installation. It doesn’t seem like anybody in the entire country knows the true answers at times — it’s very frustrating.”

As the meeting continued, participants delved deeper into discussions involving cyber theft, intellectual property, or IP, and the use of virtual private networks while in China.

Rachid Sayouty of the U.S. Commercial Service speaks during the Doing Business in China Trade Leaders Roundtable held at the College of the Canyons University Center in Valencia on Tuesday , January 07, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

“If the Chinese side isn’t interested in protecting IP, then it doesn’t matter how much we participate,” said Tyler Noble, director of finance at Schiit Audio in Valencia, who added that as a local company, they try to do as much business locally as possible to support those economies.

“I deal with audio equipment, so we have unique topologies and architectures that we design that nobody else has,” he added. “It’s one of the reasons why we haven’t gone to the Chinese market because we have no way of guaranteeing (its safety).”

Though a meeting such as this was the first of its kind, many were pleased and are looking forward to more opportunities such as this one.

“This exactly what the Santa Clarita Valley needs to make our industries more productive,” Honadel said. “The opportunity to engage in the conversation about that initial market entry problem doesn’t come up very often. This is one of those times, and it’s an amazing opportunity… This is where it starts, so this is great. I wish we could do it every six months.”

Griffin agreed, adding that he highly recommends anyone trying to do business overseas attend events such as this.

“I think the meeting was extremely useful because there are perceptions for doing business in a country that you have initially, and there are perceptions as you get into it and find out what it’s
really like,” he said. “It’s also very difficult to understand the rules and what you need to do to do business in those countries, so getting a group of people together that are involved in all of that is obviously a huge benefit.”

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