Thursday, February 12, 2009

Eco-Cities; Does it Pay Off?

This is my first post since I've been invited to contribute this blog in last December. Hence, I wanted to share an interesting phonemenon in China these days, country where I work at, also the country where a lot of media thinks that is the next land of opportunity.

I've recently been contacted by one of the local media company that has been outsourced a job from a medium sized city to set up a showcase event to attract FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) to their city.

They obviously came to me since I had credible contacts at different country's chambers of commerce in China and my simple answer was "no" to them and I gave a reason that this is not my scope of business and that I cannot utilize my contacts for other reasons.

Then they came back to me few days later with a concept of "Eco-City" and justified my involvement as Environment is one of the issues that we do deal with. Now, I must confess that although we deal with it, it's done through our partners and also we usually take care of the overall marketing/communications side of it, rather than technical side, hence I did not see a correlation between the concept of "Eco-City" and my firm. However, it was an interesting topic in a long run and I decided to utilize the chance to learn. Afterall, if it turned out to be a good project, I can simply toss it on to our environmental consultacy partners.

They requested a proposal and an overall explanation/examples of eco-cities to show to the Gov leaders at that city. While I was working on the Proposal and different research on eco-cities, I found out that there were a lot in development, not only outside of China but also with-in China. Dongtan, in Shanghai was a big issue till the leader of the gov was jailed for corruption/ Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City is becoming a big issue with an initial investment of 8billion RMB, and there were at least 3-4 others that were preparing themselves to be eco-cities.

Tonight, Since we take part in the environment consortium project of the German Chamber in Shanghai, I had a chance to attend a media appreciation dinner. Unlike other press conferences and media appreciation dinner, we decided to brainstorm and ask the reporters about "Green Industry" to understand their perception towards the industry and the German green technologies. Out of many interesting things we found out, there was a comment on the eco-city; that it will never pay off and that ROI is expected to be negative.

That got me thinking of the Eco-City project proposal. Perhaps the concept of the eco-city is unrealistic? No doubt that it will take years to break even and that it is a long-term project. So should this trend continue? Not to mention the current situation of the financial crisis? I am curious to find out other successful cases but all of them seem to not have clear answers. Perhaps we need to wait few years to find out. Currently, my thoughts are more supportive of reporters....