Prince Edward Island’s business community opened its arms on Wednesday to welcome more than 200 Chinese Islanders in the first-ever Chinese Islanders Business Summitt.
The summit was designed to give newcomers a chance to learn about operating a business in Canada and provide an opportunity for matchmaking between new Islanders from the Chinese-Canadian community and members of the established Island business community.
Sherry Huang, a business operator and president of the P.E.I. Chinese Association, said the transition for Chinese immigrants is much smoother now than it was when she arrived seven years ago.
“Prince Edward Island has a vibrant business community,’’ Huang said. “This is a great opportunity to meet and get to know opportunities.’’
Premier Robert Ghiz said one of the more exciting parts of the summit was the chance for everyone to network.
“By bringing together new Chinese Islanders with business people interested in selling or expanding their businesses we can open up the Island business environment to new participants and get new resources,’’ Ghiz said. “I do believe there are opportunities for our new Islanders to work with existing businesses here on Prince Edward Island.’’
Jamie Brown, who owns Brown’s Volkswagen, said he knows first-hand how valuable Chinese Islanders have been to the local economy.
Since purchasing the dealership six years ago, he’s doubled the number of new models each month on his lot and sales have skyrocketed.
“Why? Because of Chinese immigrants,’’ Brown said.
“There is absolutely no doubt in my mind our economy did not participate in the recession due to the dollars spent by our Chinese immigrants.’’
Brown said not only has the dealership set a new sales record every year but it has also tripled its market share. Brown even hired one of his customers after finding out the Chinese man was a factory-trained technician.
Mike May, with the Bank of Montreal in Charlottetown, said his branch has added the Chinese language to its automated teller machine, website and has hired two Chinese employees since 2010.
“And that led to a huge increase in traffic flow,’’ May said.
Craig Mackie, executive director of the P.E.I. Association for Newcomers to Canada, said the numbers of Chinese immigrants and interest made an idea like a summit important.
“They’re looking for opportunities here and that’s why we set this up,’’ Mackie said.