When it comes to doing business with China’s largest auto glass manufacturer, cultural differences will be no barrier, say business leaders with experience in China.
Fuyao Glass has affirmed its intention to open an auto glass manufacturing operation in an existing Moraine plant, and the company is doing due diligence research before closing on a purchase agreement, perhaps in about 90 days.
But any cultural differences between the plant’s Chinese owners and the American workforce won’t be that vast, said University of Dayton President Dan Curran, whose own academic and business association with China goes back to the mid-1980s.
“Just treat them the way we want to be treated,” Curran said. “The way we approach business is pretty much the same, although it (China) may have more of a long-term view than we have.”
While American companies may be more focused on immediate returns, hitting the right quarterly numbers, that’s not necessarily the case with Chinese businesses.
“Chinese businesses are looking very long term,” Curran said. “And that’s the way they invest. I think that’s a real positive.”
On Jan. 10, Fuyao committed to buying 1.4 million square feet of a former General Motors plant off West Stroop Road. The company expects to invest some $200 million in the plant, employing 800 U.S. workers when the site is fully operational, according to JobsOhio, the state’s private development arm.
Fuyao’s investment may be the largest auto-related Chinese investment in Ohio, JobsOhio has said.
Any cultural gaps have not been a stumbling block locally.
“So far, nothing has interfered significantly with the business aspects of this project,” said Moraine City Manager Dave Hicks, who has worked with Fuyao representatives for months along with other city staff.
Mike Davis, Moraine development director, said interactions have gone smoothly. “There were many more similarities than differences, which I believe were due to our joint purpose,” he said.
Curran thinks the size of the investment shows that Fuyao plans to be in Moraine for a long time.
“Once a decision is made that this is a location they want to be in, they view it as a long-term investment,” he said. “And they see the progression and growth of the company as being a long-term thing.”
UD has strong ties to China. Its campus is home to some 800 Chinese students. In August 2012, UD opened its China Institute in an Eastern China industrial zone, the Suzhou Industrial Park. UD says it is the first American university to open a center in the park, where a third of the world’s Fortune 500 companies have operations.
Fuyao has long dealt with American companies like GM and Ford, and Asian transplants in the U.S. like Hyundai. (Fuyao was twice named a GM supplier of the year).
Daniel Joseph, China advisor for PNC Financial Services Group, lived in China for 12 years. He assured Dayton residents that Fuyao “isn’t going to throw out the management book.”
“They come in and do mostly what you expect,” Joseph said.
He expects Fuyao to find Americans with whom they can work and put them in senior management positions.
“Their customers are the major auto manufacturers,” Joseph said. “My point is, you have to get certifications to sell to these companies, and you have to meet certain standards.”
You don’t reach those standards by “browbeating” employees or taking short-cuts, Joseph said.
Bill Black, an executive with Fleishman-Hillard, a St. Louis-based public relations firm that has helped several Chinese companies come to the United States, advises regional leaders to expect a certain “formality” between Chinese and Americans, especially early on.”Both sides are on their best behavior,” he said.
But that formality probably won’t last, Black said. “It’s an issue of trust. And once you get to a point of trust, everything seems to flow pretty well from there.”
Erin Ennis, vice president of the U.S.-China Business Council, said Fuyao is no stranger to the U.S. Any cultural gaps should be easily bridgeable, she said.
“You probably aren’t going to see any going to see cultural challenges,” Ennis said. “I think this is going to be a slam dunk for the community.”
Riad Ajami, executive director of the Wright State University Center for Global Business and editor of the Journal of Asia-Pacific Business, said there will be some differences, and we should be aware of those differences. But there’s no need to get bogged down in any cultural gaps, he said.
“We should be treating them like we would be treating any other company coming in.”
Much depends on how well Fuyao does in Moraine. If the plant is successful, suppliers and vendors may look for homes within 100 miles of the Moraine plant, Ajami said. Suppliers like to be within driving distance of companies they serve, and 100 miles would be less than a two-hour drive.
Said Ajami: “We should expect, if we do it well, that other Chinese, that other suppliers, will come.”
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