By Masood Rab, MMNS
Malaysian Industrial Development Authority (MIDA) Chicago Office organized a Malaysian Business Conference on May 15, 2008 in Detroit. The theme of the first ever Malaysian business conference in Michigan was “Malaysia-US Business Opportunities.” The conference sought to project the economic advantages for starting up businesses in Malaysia over other countries including China in that region. The conference went beyond inviting businesses by offering a unique “Malaysia – My Second Home” project for increasing human capital of the country for people with capital. The factors that favor investment in the country are: political and economic stability, English language, and sound infrastructure.
The conference was chaired by Don Graunstadt, President and CEO of US based Lotus Engineering, a division of Group Lotus based in England and owned by Proton of Malaysia, an automotive company. Other conference speakers were Robert Ficano, Wayne County Executive; Mark Baker, Senior VP and Global Operations Officer of Grand Rapids, Michigan based Steelcase; and Muhyiddin Yassin, Minister of International Trade and Industry, Malaysia. The conference included a luncheon hosted by Minister Yassin and ended with many one on one meetings between representatives of over 20 Malaysian companies and organizations and various individuals and representatives of US companies seeking business opportunities in Malaysia.
Don Graunstadt in his opening remarks praised the people and business environment in Malaysia. He was impressed by the warmth and friendliness of the Malaysians and the racial harmony between its different races and religions.
Minister Yassin emphasized this point later. During a question and answer session he said, “We are an advanced, friendly, moderate and progressive Muslim country in the world. We offer peaceful living to everyone.” He continued, “There is more disinformation in the US media about Islam than the truth. I agree that we need to do more for promoting the peaceful image of Islam and Malaysia as a Muslim country.”
Wayne County Exec. Ficano thanked the Malaysian government and MIDA for having the conference in Detroit and Wayne County, and offered his support for any Malaysian companies considering joint venture projects in the US.
Minister Yassin presented statistics about the comparative business costs in Malaysia and other countries like Singapore and China and cost of living and living amenities and environment. He mentioned the opportunities available in many industries ranging from automotive to electrical and electronic products, food processing including Halal products, rubber products, textiles, transportation, water and wastewater, etc. He also boasted that Malaysia is the only country in the world offering a “silver hair program” for seniors who wish to take advantage of the “Malaysia – My Second Home” project.
Mark Baker of Steelcase talked about the quality of the work force in Malsysia, and the work ethic of the Malaysian employees.
Among the various companies and organizations that were at hand to discuss business opportunities in Malaysia, were private companies and government representatives from Immigration Department, Johor State, and Bintulu Development Authority. The state government agencies presented plans for real state, industrial, and infrastructure development. Bintulu Development Authority has plans for hydro-electric power production of 28,000 Mega Watts in next 15 years – almost four times that of Michigan. The plans are to sell electric power to the neighboring countries.
The conference was a success – professionally well organized and planned that projected the Malaysian image of harmony and peace among the people and with the nature while adapting the technology and the current industrial development.