By George L. Winship, Editor, Anderson Valley Post, Oct 2012

Arranged through a Chinese tour agency, 20 high-ranking business leaders from Guizhou Province in south-central China spent most of Wednesday, Oct. 10, touring three Shasta County businesses including Anderson-based Sierra Pacific Industries’
sawmill, Redding Electric Utility’s plant on Clear Creek Road and Burnsini Vineyards in Cottonwood.

“It was truly an honor for us to be a part of their visit,” said Tom Burnham, general manager for the local winery that produces and sells 1,500 cases of wine annually in five varieties and one special blend.

“For the better part of an hour we showed the group around our winery and opened up our tasting room for sampling and single-bottle sales,” Burnham said.

The provincial governor, Zhao Kezhi, “loved our Petit Sirah. He wanted to purchase 10 cases, but I didn’t know how to ship it out of the country,” Burnham lamented.

Instead, various members of the group bought more than 10 bottles to enjoy on the remainder of their visit, he said.

Speaking to the group through interpreters was a new experience for Burnham, he admitted.

“I was caught a bit off guard. I had to stop talking long enough for the interpreters to do their job and then it was difficult for me to remember what I had just told them,” Burnham said with a laugh.

Earlier in the day, the same group of state-owned business presidents and top executives spent 45 minutes touring a small-log sawmill at Sierra Pacific Industries as well as walking through Redding Electric Utility’s natural gas-fueled electrical
generating facility on Clear Creek Road between Anderson and Redding.

“It was a pretty interesting group. Most of them were either company owners or CEOs,” said Mark Lathrop, community relations manager for Sierra Pacific Industries.

“They asked a lot of really interesting questions and they seemed very impressed with our mill. They were surprised by all of the computers, lasers and high technology that we use here,” Lathrop said.

Following the sawmill visit, the group sat down for a 45-minute question-and-answer session on natural resources as well as some refreshments served inside SPI’s spacious corporate headquarters before continuing on with their South County
tour, he recounted.

“Mark Emerson welcomed them and told them of his recent trip to China last year. He went over there to learn about the state of sawmilling in that country,” Lathrop said.

The tour of Shasta County businesses was arranged locally by the Economic Development Corporation of Shasta County (Shasta EDC), following up on a request from a Beijing-based tour company, said Mark Lascelles, president of Shasta EDC.

“We were selected as a natural resource region providing some similar industrial resources as Guizhou (Province),” said Lascelles, contacted by cellular phone while he was taking a break from an Industrial Asset Management Conference in Omaha,
Neb., Tuesday, Oct. 16.

“We sent the tour company a list of 15 or 16 companies where we could arrange a tour and they chose three to visit,” Lascelles explained.

The same company had called Shasta EDC last year when an agricultural group showed interest in northern California, but that visit never panned out, he said.

The high-ranking business executives, including at least six women, represented manufacturers of cigarettes, dynamite and wire rope, a malted wheat-based distillery, banks and financial companies as well as those with interests in mining and
energy, Lascelles said.

“Although the group had visited four very large cities on both U.S. coasts, they were very, very impressed with Shasta County,” he noted.

The visit proved successful for all concerned, Lascelles noted in a Shasta EDC blog.

“We have already identified at least four new trade opportunities as a result of this visit and we look forward toward further discussions with Guizhou,” Lascelles told the Anderson Valley Post.