A six-member delegation from China wants to invest in West Virginia hardwood, and the director of the Randolph County Development Authority couldn't be happier.
RCDA executive director Robbie Morris was pleased to host a closed-door business meeting between Tianjin Commodities Exchange, also known as Tjcomex, and local timber industry producers Monday at the West Virginia Wood Technology Center, a nonprofit subsidiary of RCDA.
Tjcomex, named after Tianjin, a large coastal city in northern China, is the first privately held commodities exchange in China, Morris said. The six-member delegation purchases wine and wood, and is interested in buying large quantities of wood from producers within the West Virginia Hardwood Alliance Zone.
The purpose of the meeting was for the two parties to become acquainted with one another and possibly negotiate a deal.
"Any time an industry sector can increase their exports, it has a positive impact on the West Virginia economy," Morris said. "The business deals that could come from these meetings would have a substantial impact on our local, regional and state economy. Wood producers have been looking for ways to increase their sales and this provides an entirely new market for them."
At Monday's meeting, the West Virginia Division of Forestry briefed the delegation on the status of the Mountain State's forests and wood products industry. In turn, the exchange detailed how much wood it would like to buy and made proposals about how the purchasing and selling process would take place.
Lane Bailey, the group's representative and CEO of Advocom Group, wouldn't say exactly how much wood Tjcomex wants to buy, but did confirm that it "would probably be a large purchase."
So, exactly how did the commodities exchange select north-central West Virginia?
The group's CEO, Dr. Chunliu Ni, earned his doctorate in economics from West Virginia University and "really knows West Virginia," Bailey said.
"Dr. Ni is one of the real innovators in China in terms of commodities and economics," Bailey said. "He's helping China evolve in how it deals with world economies." China is the largest consumer of wood in the world "by far," Bailey added.
Bailey said buying/selling agreements between Tjcomex and individual wood industry companies would likely be negotiated within a relatively short time frame, but declined to name specific dates.