China Officials Look to Chester County Businesses for Partnership Opportunities

Ken Knickerbocker
Members of Bernardon architectural firm pose for the camera with the Chinese delegation after speaking about projects that may be valuable in the China marketplace.

By Commissioner Terence Farrell

Chester County’s relationship with China officials is leading to ever increasing opportunities for county businesses in China, and Chinese investment here in Chester County.

In the past six months we have welcomed four delegations from China to Chester County. The most recent visit was by representatives from Yangzhou, including Deputy Mayor ZhiJian Wang.

This delegation was  interested in tourism and we met at Longwood Gardens, recently named as the best botanical garden in America, and the delegation members sampled wine from our own Galer Estate Winery.

Today, China ranks second in foreign visitors to Chester County. Tourism is one of the top economic drivers in Chester County and Susan Hamley, Executive Director of the county’s Conference and Visitors Bureau, believes visitation from China will increase in coming years.  The visitation was led by Sino-American Business & Travel Association President James Zhang.

The previous delegations have been business and investment focused and have yielded unique and diverse opportunities for Chester County companies. I’ve been working with representatives from China, together with the Chester County Economic Development Council (CCEDC), Chester County companies and national trade organizations to facilitate these partnerships.

One of the possible projects is a Fresh Pack mushroom-packing facility for Shizhu County, Chongqing Municipality. Bernardon, the architectural firm located in Kennett Square, through company leaders Art Bernardon and Kerry Haber, is talking with Shizhu officials. Bernardon has already designed and built a mushroom factory in Guannan County, Lianyungang City, Jiangsu Province of China.

Our work with Bernardon is just one of a number of efforts of organizations looking to establish or expand their presence in China.  The bullet points below highlight these efforts. In addition to our work with Bernardon, we are supporting the efforts of other organizations looking to establish or expand their presence in China.

Specific examples include:

  • Genesis Healthcare – already well established with rehabilitation services in China but exploring opportunities in other cities and provinces.
  • West Chester University – developing a formal relationship with Chongqing University
  • CTDI – another company well established in China with 11 repair facilities in operation.  We’ll support additional growth and locations, particularly if it involves Chongqing.
  • Coatesville Solar Initiative – We have identified Chinese investors interested in U.S. solar projects.  We are working to connect them to key solar projects proposed in and around Coatesville.  Upon completion, over 20MW of solar power will be generated at these Coatesville sites.
  • Silvercare – a skilled nursing facility planned for Delaware County but designed to serve the Chinese population in the Greater Philadelphia area.

In addition to these company specific initiatives, we have been very active promoting EB-5 investment opportunities in Chester County and the surrounding region.  EB-5 is a tool that facilitates foreign investment into U.S. projects.  Foreign investors receive permanent green cards as part of the return on their job-creating investments.

Chester County’s Bentley Systems of Exton and Victory Brewing Company of Downingtown are also exploring additional business possibilities in China.

I’ve been proud to take a leadership role in opening up business opportunities, but the China Initiative is  a collaborative effort that includes Michael Grigalonis, COO at the Chester County Economic Development Council, ABD International President Sue Cheng and others, plus state and national trade organizations.

As a validation of Chester County’s China Initiative, Mike, Sue and I were asked to speak at the Asian Food & Business Expo being held in Philadelphia. The expo is designed to connect Asian markets with prospective partners from around the world. Chester County strongly encourages the international exchange of both business and cultural opportunities, and events like the Asian Food & Business Expo help achieve this goal.

Members of the Chester County business community have also traveled to China to meet with business leaders and to see first-hand the many business opportunities available to county companies.

I visited China in May 2014 and signed an agreement establishing a cooperative partnership between Yongchuan District, Chongqing Province and Chester County. A county delegation followed with a trip to China in October 2014.

We are planning another trip to China later this year or early next year and we are looking for local businesses to become involved in this effort. Chester County has world-class businesses and business leaders. This is an excellent opportunity for our business community to interact in the global community.

If interested in more details, please contact me directly at


Commissioner Farrell
Commissioner Terence Farrell

Terence Farrell is a Chester County Commissioner and currently serves as Chairman of the Board of Commissioners. He is a lifelong resident of Chester County. He is a resident of the borough of West Chester and serves on a number of boards and councils, including the YMCA of the Brandywine Valley and People’s Light and Theatre Company.