For­mer NFL star de­signs multi-pronged play to feed China

China Daily (USA) - - ACROSS AMERICA - Chris Davis Con­tact the writer at chris davis@chi­nadai­

Ex-pro foot­ball run­ning back Billy Sims, who won the Heis­man Tro­phy at Ok­la­homa in 1978 and played five Pro Bowl sea­sons with the De­troit Lions, knows how to make plays.

As a busi­ness­man three years ago, he met Siva Yam, pres­i­dent of the US/China Cham­ber of Com­merce and struck up a friend­ship. Af­ter at­tend­ing a dozen cham­ber trade shows (Sims at the time was in­ter­ested in sell­ing dis­tressed bank prop­er­ties to wealthy Chi­nese), Sims be­came sports am­bas­sador to the cham­ber and al­tered his goal.

“It took a lot of con­vinc­ing, but Siva fi­nally got us to fo­cus our at­ten­tion on the man­u­fac­tur­ing and ex­port­ing of food to China,” Sims said.

The fact that Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping had re­cently an­nounced that over the next 10 years, China ex­pected to im­port $10 tril­lion an­nu­ally in com­modi­ties, ser­vices and food helped fo­cus his at­ten­tion.

Dur­ing Pres­i­dent Obama’s re-elec­tion cam­paign, Sims met White House ad­viser Va­lerie Jar­rett at a fundraiser in De­troit and told her about their idea — to man­u­fac­ture and ex­port food to China. Jar­rett liked the idea and of­fered to help.

“She ar­ranged a six-month gru­el­ing due dili­gence jour­ney,” Sims said. They met with the trade rep­re­sen­ta­tive se­nior staff, un­der­sec­re­tary of the USDA for China, di­rec­tor of Se­lect/USA, deputy as­sis­tant sec­re­tary of state for East Asia.

They got con­gress­men to write to China’s min­is­ter of agri­cul­ture, who ap­pointed a staffer from the em­bassy in Wash­ing­ton to work with them. The State De­part­ment set up meet­ings with staffers at the Amer­i­can em­bassy in Bei­jing.

“We were talk­ing to ev­ery agency in Wash­ing­ton that deals with China ev­ery day,” he told China Daily. “We were well ed­u­cated on China. We found out that Chi­nese busi­ness­men are hav­ing a hard time try­ing to es­tab­lish joint ven­ture part­ner­ships with US food man­u­fac­tur­ers.”

Time to go deep. “So we de­cided to think long term and cre­ate ‘the shop­ping mall of food ex­port to China’,” he said.

In other words, “a bril­liant sup­ply chain to China”, Sims calls it.

He de­cided to com­bine the ef­fort with help­ing the city of Flint, Michi­gan, (a city that knows some­thing about lead), and “rein­vent Flint into the Food Man­u­fac­tur­ing Cap­i­tal of the world”, he said.

The Billy Sims/China Food Group was formed. The plan is to build food hubs, each con­sist­ing of up to four sep­a­rate pro­cess­ing plants churn­ing out prod­ucts for ex­clu­sive ex­port to China. Dairy, but­ter, cheese, eggs, soft drinks, salad oils, sauces, chips, nuts, canned veg­gies and fruit, yo­gurt, ce­re­als, choco­late, juice, vi­ta­mins … the list is long.

“Ide­ally we will form 3-way joint ven­tures,” he ex­plained in a press re­lease. “The Chi­nese part­ner will own 50 per­cent of each Billy Sims China Food Group pro­cess­ing hub. A US food man­u­fac­turer will then be in­vited to pro­duce prod­ucts for ex­port at the hub and will own 25 per­cent.”

The Billy Sims China Food Group will own the re­main­ing quar­ter.

The long range goal is to build more than 40 food pro­cess­ing plants over time, and China will own half.

The group’s team is made up of ex­perts from four na­tions — China, the US, Aus­tralia and New Zealand, and in­cludes ar­chi­tects, plant en­gi­neers and con­struc­tion man­agers and food safety spe­cial­ists who will over­see ev­ery phase of con­struc­tion and devel­op­ment.

“The Chi­nese partners will typ­i­cally be our cus­tomers for the prod­ucts we pro­duce in Flint and ship di­rectly to their re­tail lo­ca­tions in China,” Sims said.

In ad­di­tion, the team fea­tures in­vest­ment bankers, sci­en­tists and in­ter­na­tional and Chi­nese law firms and mar­ket­ing ex­perts.

The Flint and Ge­ne­see Cham­ber of Com­merce is host­ing the first big get­to­gether Wed­nes­day and Thurs­day in Flint. Hong Lei, China’s con­sul gen­eral in Chicago, is sched­uled to take part.

“We have cre­ated the Shop­ping Mall of Food Ex­port to China,” Sims wrote. “We are work­ing close with the Chi­nese em­bassy, and we have a plan to make this hap­pen, quickly.”

Ready, set…

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