An Invercargill businessman has a goal to grow a billion-dollar business in the south.
Xing Dong Yan, the 28-year-old chief executive of Judith Cambridge Chartered Accountants and director of Y C Global, travelled to China to represent Southland at the Dragon 100 Young Chinese Leaders Forum last year.
There, with 99 other outstanding young Chinese leaders from 26 regions around the world, Mr Yan learned about China's national development plan for the five years to 2015.
He says Southland should use its food manufacturing capabilities and the reputation the New Zealand dairy sector had built to push more quality products into China's regional markets.
The plan included strong directions towards agriculture, hi-tech farming practices, and environmentally friendly industries.
It was important Southland understood China's plans because the country was New Zealand's second largest trading partner, he said.
Since his return, Mr Yan had been thinking about what the region could do, and how he could apply what he had learned, to help businesses grow.
"My goal is to grow a billion-dollar business from here."
Being at the bottom of the country was not a barrier to making the links and contacts that would grow Southland's economy.
"It doesn't matter where you're from in New Zealand . . . we have a very good reputation in that market," he said.
The focus now needed to be on building local government relationships which would open doors into the regions because business was done on established relationships.
"If you haven't got relationships then there's no business," he said.
But the challenge would be to learn more about China and its culture so people could be respectful. "And we have to encourage our kids in the region to take up more Asian languages. It's not happening enough here at all. In particular Mandarin."
Southlanders might be scared by the size of the opportunity because China was a large market and manufacturers could only supply so much.
But, as a region and a country, people needed to collaborate to meet the demand.
"I think we just have to dream big and do it. Make it happen," Mr Yan said.
- The Southland Times