By Laura Christianson HBJ Freelance Writer
BELLEVUE — Washington is a leader in international trade and technology innovation. As global powerhouses such as Boeing, Microsoft and Amazon.com have prospered, they’ve opened the door for smaller tech-related enterprises to engage in trade with the fast-growing Chinese market.
In hopes of growing relationships among entrepreneurs in Washington and China, the City of Bellevue launched BellevueCN.com, an online magazine published in English and Chinese.
The e-magazine’s goal is twofold, said Thomas Boydell, its manager. “We want to increase Washington’s exports to China and to attract more inbound investment. This platform gives businesses throughout our state the opportunity to speak to China in their language in culturally appropriate ways.”
The Puget Sound region is renowned for software engineering, video game development, aerospace manufacturing, medical and biotechnology research, cloud computing and mobile communications. Boydell attributes this success to home-grown talent and the state’s internationally diverse labor pool.
BellevueCN.com nurtures this creativity by sharing the stories of technology leaders. It features local companies that do business overseas, such as Mukilteo’s Electroimpact, a supplier of turn-key automation systems for commercial and military aircraft assembly.
Solopreneurs such as John Bell, who owns Willis Hall Wines in Marysville, candidly share the challenges and victories of exporting their wares to China.
Readers also glean little-known personal insights into the lives of prominent Chinese-Americans such as Gary Locke, the former two-term Democratic governor of Washington who is now U.S. ambassador to China.
The site publishes advice from leaders who play an integral role in U.S.-China trade, such as Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., and Washington State China Relations Council President Joe Borich.
The e-magazine includes stories of individuals from China who have established successful careers here, such as Ming Zhang, president of Mulvanny G2 Architecture. It profiles China-based companies, such as Hainan Airlines and iSoftStone, which serve as models for other companies interested in establishing a foothold in Washington state.
And it features scientists and researchers such as Richard Counihan, founder and CEO of Enprecis, an emerging data services provider for the global automotive industry.
Bellevue plays a key role in helping entrepreneurs statewide make connections and create new technology businesses.
“Bellevue is the first local government in the U.S. to build a Web-based bilingual bridge from here to Asia that benefits small and medium enterprises,” Boydell said. “We want to tell the world that Washington is a flexible boundary of human ideas that drives business and technology innovation globally.”
He has high hopes that this partnership model will expand to other languages.
Calvin Goings, regional administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration, agrees with Boydell.
“The City of Bellevue is a leader always working to position themselves at the forefront of emerging opportunities,” Goings said. “The BellevueCN.com website offers visitors a glimpse at what it takes to trade with China.”
As Bellevue’s economic development manager, Boydell has been instrumental in securing partners to assist with the site’s leadership. Sponsors of the public-private partnership include the State of Washington, the Washington Technology Industry Association, Trade Development Alliance of Greater Seattle and the Hong Kong Association of Washington. Corporate sponsors include iSoftStone, University of Washington, the Chinese Microsoft Employee network (CHIME) and others.
A mobile version of BellevueCN.com launched in November. BellevueCN.com also uses social networks such as Yuku (China’s version of YouTube), Sina Weibo (a hybrid of Twitter and Facebook), and optimizes the site’s content for Baidu (China’s top search engine).
“Social media gives us an opportunity to bridge the cultural divide by talking with people we hope to reach,” Boydell said. “People feel as if they get a personal handshake through this site, and that’s a key step to doing business successfully in China.”