Hails beginning of new era
Helen Chang, magistrate of Chiayi County Government, has put all her efforts into inaugurating a new era of food safety, education, industrial development, agricultural production and tourism development in the southwestern region
In the era of globalization, cities and counties must be more forward thinking and step outside of the box. Among other challenges to be addressed by policy actors are to ensure that the benefits of globalization extend to local people and to deal with the fear that globalization leads to food safety issues, which is particularly marked in today’s Taiwan. Another challenge is to address the very real fear in the industrialized world that increased global competition will lead inexorably to an exodus of population to major urban centers. And finally, globalization and all of the complicated problems related to it must not be used as excuses to avoid searching for new ways to cooperate in the overall interest of countries and people.
Helen Chang (張花冠), magistrate of the Chiayi County Government (嘉義縣政府), is fully aware of these challenges and she has put all her efforts into establishing a new era of food safety, education, industrial development, agricultural production and tourism development for residents living in the southwestern region.
A New Era of Food Safety
Amid the series of food safety incidents in Taiwan that came to light in recent years, Chang helped Chiayi to step out of its frame and embrace an era of refined, safe agriculture with branding by emphasizing “quality” over “quantity.” To further entice the second and third generations of local farming families, she has pushed for the development of a new agriculture that relies on advanced technology to generate higher revenue. The magistrate knows for certain that in order to have a breakthrough in the Japanese market, which is one of the most profitable in the world, Chiayi producers must not only follow international agriculture and food regulations, but also conform to Japan’s strict regulations.
With this observation in mind, Chiayi County in March signed an MOU (memorandum of understanding) with the Good Agriculture Practice standards in Japan and became the first county/city here to adopt the Japan Good Agriculture Practice (J-GAP), a strict regulation that guarantees the quality of local produce. At the same time, Chiayi authorities have committed to building Taiwan's first Food Safety Building (
食安大樓) to provide testing to local producers and educate the public on issues related to food safety. Both decisions will ensure not only the quality and safety of the products but also stability in food production in the region.
Thanks to the support of William Wang (王文淵), chairman of the Formosa Plastics Group (台塑集團董事長), the construction of the Food Safety Building, which started construction in 2015, has two giant chopsticks included in the facade of the building as a reminder of the importance of food safety. Black and white are the two main colors of the building; black serves as a reminder of the food safety scandals that Taiwanese people have been through while white represents the conscience of every human being. “Only producers’ conscience can guarantee consumers’ confidence and secureness (in food products),” said Chang.
According to the magistrate, the building consists of an organic supermarket, safety kitchen, restaurant, artifact library, seminar room and audiovisual classroom. The safety kitchen is where cooking classes will be held to present nutritious and easy-to-make dishes to local gourmets. As for the organic supermarket, it is dedicated to local brands, selling vegetables and meat from Chiayi. The rest of the area will be for examination use. “In the future, the Food Safety Building will be operated independently as a foundation constituted as a juristic person and will charge for examination services,” explained Chang.
A New Era of Education for All
Because training and education are the stepping stones to food safety and a better quality of life, Chang has been working to reduce the educational gap that exists between urban and rural areas by carefully allocating educational resources across the region.
“We have transformed an abandoned school into Chiayi Wenguang International English Village (嘉義縣文光國際英語村), where foreigners can use situational teaching methods to directly teach English,” the magistrate went on. “For instance, using China Airlines’ scrap cabin and seats to teach children about piloting as a practical way of learning the English language.”
Even though it doesn’t have the same resources as major urban centers in the country, Chiayi still provides necessary funds and resources for proper learning. Furthermore, Chiayi wants to give children an international perspective on issues such as environmental protection.
Even though the region doesn’t enjoy the same resources in pushing for admission to higher education, Chiayi aims to give local children the same competitiveness starting from childhood to adulthood.
A New Era of Industrial Development
In order to improve its industrial capability and give Chiayi people more job opportunities, the Chiayi County Government has developed the Chiayi Dapumei Precision Machinary Industrial Park (嘉義大埔美精密機械園區) and Machouhou Industrial Park (馬稠後產業園區).
Among many other foreign companies that have already set up in Chiayi Dapumei Precision Machinary Industrial Park, which specializes in the precision optics industry, is the Japanese multinational imaging and optical giant, Canon. The Canon Chiayi Factory is the company’s second manufacturing site in Taiwan — after Taichung — and the first case of overseas land purchase and factory construction by the Japanese company. With great assistance from the Chiayi County Government, the construction was completed after a record-breaking 277 days.
As of June this year, the park already has 10 companies running and 25 companies building factories. In the future, with the operation of Chiayi's three industrial parks, they will attract numerous global enterprises to set foot in the county, further create an annual revenue of NT$120 billion and offer over 35,000 job opportunities.
To further build on its industrial strengths, Chiayi authorities have committed to improving the county’s transportation network with a light rail project under development in addition to the high speed rail and numerous highways already in service. The county government now aims to further attract more companies with low energy
In addition to natural landscapes, there is also a wide variety of tourism attractions and activities available in Chiayi County such as Ruili's wisteria season (瑞里紫藤花季), Guanghua's firefly season (光華螢火蟲季), Chiayi Ocean's Summer Festival (嘉義東石漁人碼頭海之夏祭), Chiayi Culture Creative (神鬼傳奇) and Alishan Sunrise Impression Concert (阿里山日出印象音樂會).
Chiayi Culture Creative is an activity held during the Lunar July (農曆七月) each year, which is a time that is typically considered bad luck by some Taiwanese people, but they offer a lot of fun to the young and the young at heart.
To Chang, it is Chiayi’s responsibility to organize the county’s various natural resources and promote them by holding periodic activities. With its available resources, Chaiyi has held the Alishan Sunrise Impression Concert for 13 years, which attracts around 10,000 to 20,000 people to hike up Alishan and wait for sunrise.
On the other hand, The National Palace Museum Southern Branch (故宮南院) started its trial operation. Chiayi now holds high importance in Southern Taiwan culture, by connecting Dongshih Fisherman's Wharf (東石漁人碼頭), the National Palace Museum Southern Branch, the Solar Exploration Center (北回歸線太陽館) and Alishan National Scenery Area as well as many other tourist spots, turning Chiayi into the most beautiful tourist hot spot, attracting more and more tourists to visit it and bringing more than four million visitors that can create thousands of job opportunities. This is Chiayi's new era of cultural tourism.
The highly anticipated National Palace Museum Southern Branch in Chiayi will open at the end of this year. Entrepreneurs gather around Magistrate Helen Chang, front row center, to express their appreciation for the work of Chiayi County Government in front of Dapumei Precision Machinery Industrial Park Service Center.
Chiayi’s Food Safety Building, which started construction in 2015, has two giant chopsticks included in the facade of the building as a reminder of the importance of food safety.
The annual Chiayi Ocean's Summer Festival is a must-see destination for holiday-goers.