A unique opportunity is currently developing between the City of Muscatine and private investors from China. A recent expansion of ties between the city of Muscatine and China include private investment into the Merrill Hotel project. Several Muscatine industries already have an established presence in Shangai, and there is a newly constructed Muscatine Cultural Center located in the city of Jinan. With the new plans in place for the hotel it now gives foreign investors, entrepreneurs, business people and tourists a tangible opportunity to view and experience what Muscatine has to offer as the travel to the U.S.

Muscatine’s relationship with China can be traced back to a 1985 when current Chinese President Xi Jinping visited as part of an agricultural delegation visiting the area.  Jinping’s first visit three decades ago resulted in him making long-term friendships with individuals in Muscatine, prompting a second visit here in 2012 while he was then Vice President to catch-up with those friends from long ago. Jinping at that time told Mayor DeWayne Hopkins, “you are America.” Encouraged by the vice president’s idea that the city of Muscatine should establish relations with a city in China, Hopkins made his first visit to China to begin formalizing our sister cities agreement with the city of Zhending.

Daniel Chang and Glad Wang are the two Chinese developers who have invested nearly $6 million into the new Merrill Hotel project. The two men also own property in Muscatine and live here half of the year. According to Hopkins, their primary goal is to “corral some of the tourism from China that comes into Chicago every year.” He added that “it might not sound like much, but the new hotel, tourism, the things that President Jinping experienced when he was here, it all adds up to tourism looking into the future.”

Hopkins also stated that “hopes are that in addition to the two Chinese individuals currently here in Muscatine, others will look at Muscatine, the landscape and see where there might possibly be a need, will then fulfill that need and employ people in our area.” In fact, others are looking at Muscatine.

The mayor made his second visit to China earlier this year to attend the ribbon cutting ceremony of the new Muscatine Cultural Center. “The Cultural center is the only one of its kind in the world” he said, and includes product displays from HNI, Kent Corp. and Musco Sports Lighting along with a 3-d map of the city of Muscatine. Hopkins added that the Chinese “have quite a list of visitors that have been there as well since its grand opening.”