(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in a two-part series focused on Elizabeth Rowland and her goal of helping secure more foreign direct investment in Tennessee while also helping more Tennessee companies do business in emerging markets like China.)
By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
Knoxville native Elizabeth Rowland has turned seven years of experience working in or with China into a new organization with a mission to help Tennesseans capitalize on the rapidly emerging economy in the Asian country.
The TN-China Network (TNCN), launched last fall, capitalizes on the knowledge Rowland gained running her own business while also serving for more than three years as a policy analyst with two different organizations.
From her previous work, she cites data that reflect significant opportunities for established Tennessee companies wanting to do business with China or even start-ups interested in talking with Chinese venture investors.
“China was not in the top four countries as a source of foreign direct investment into Tennessee in 2012,” Rowland says in citing statistics provided by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, “but there is huge potential for growth.” At the same time, China is Tennessee’s third largest export destination after Canada and Mexico.
One area that Rowland sees as a significant opportunity for Tennessee companies is medical devices, an already thriving export sector for state-based companies that will only grow as China modernizes and expands its healthcare system.
“There’s a lot of business going on between Tennessee and China, but not a lot of awareness or information sharing about it,” Rowland says. That’s where the TNCN organization and a possible IBC come into play.
“The TN-China Network brings together people and resources across Tennessee and China to strengthen business ties and enhance bilateral trade and investment,” Rowland says.
TNCN is designed to serve as a “first-stop information resource” for companies in Tennessee and China. One of its initiatives is a series of networking events where Tennesseans can learn about doing business in China, share best practices, and connect with potential business partners and service providers.
All of the efforts are designed to educate and promote investment and trade between the two countries. There is no membership fee to join TNCN, but sponsorship and volunteer opportunities exist.
While a major part of Rowland’s attention is focused on China, she also is championing a local International Business Council (IBC).
“Knoxville is the only major city in Tennessee without one,” she notes. A local IBC would address international business priorities related to a variety of foreign countries, not just China.
Rowland says an IBC would help recruit foreign direct investment into the region, support local companies seeking to export abroad as well as foreign companies with operations here, provide educational events and publications, help host foreign visitors, provide networking opportunities, and advocate for policies that enhance international business activities.
Those interested in learning more about the TN-China Network or the possibility of developing an International Business Council in the Knoxville area can contact Elizabeth Rowland at firstname.lastname@example.org.