Chicago's mayor courted Chinese President Hu Jintao on Friday during a whirlwind visit that included a tour of a local high school and stop at a business expo in an effort to boost economic ties between the world's second-largest economy and companies in Chicago and elsewhere in the Midwest.
"We in Chicago, we in the region, we in the Midwest want to act as a gateway for Chinese business investment into America, and at the same time we want to make sure that our businesses are a gateway into China as well," Mayor Richard M. Daley said after squiring Hu to the expo where about a dozen Chinese businesses with operations in the Midwest had set up exhibits to show off their companies.
Hu was apparently impressed.
"These businesses have injected fresh momentum into the American economy and created jobs here. The Chinese government will continue to encourage our companies to do business and make investments here," Hu said through a translator. Hu arrived in Chicago on Thursday after two days of White House meetings.
Many have credited Daley's efforts for Hu's decision to come to Chicago. The mayor has traveled to China four times since 2004, touting Chicago as a global transportation hub with large manufacturing and industrial sectors friendly to Chinese business.
One of the businesses on display for Hu at the expo in the Chicago suburb of Woodridge was Anthony Urban's D&R Technology of Carol Stream, an automotive supply company his family sold to the Wanxiang Group in October.
The company has 165 workers in Illinois, another 250 in Mexico and it plans to open a manufacturing facility in China to sell its products.
Urban, the company's president, said selling to a Chinese firm was a "heads-up" decision and Hu's visit bodes well for future business deals.
When Daley first went to China nearly seven years ago, he visited an elementary school where all the students spoke proficient English. Daley got to show off a school of his own Friday when he toured a Chicago high school with Hu where students can learn Chinese.