Howard County officials Gray, Robey to go to China; National group sponsors 2-week trip to explore business opportunities


Howard County's two top elected officials plan to visit several provinces in China near the capital Beijing on their two-week trip to the Far East, sponsored by the National Association of Counties (NACo).

C. Vernon Gray, an east Columbia Democrat, County Council chairman and NACo president, invited County Executive James N. Robey, also a Democrat, to accompany other local government officials from across the country on the trip, which is intended to explore business, educational and cultural opportunities.

The group, which leaves Sunday, is to see the Three Gorge Dam on the Yangtze River -- one of the largest construction projects in the world -- and go to Tiajin province 100 miles south of the capital to talk about economic development with local officials.

In addition, the group will visit Kunming, to see a horticulture exhibit, and Shezhen, a fast growing region enjoying an economic boom.

Robey said he doesn't expect any immediate, concrete benefit to Howard County, whose taxpayers are footing his travel expenses to and from China. NACo pays in-country expenses. But, "we don't live in a bubble," the executive said, noting recent visits to Howard by foreign trade delegations from Europe, Russia and China.

New relationships sometimes pay off years later, he said.

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