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Chinese businessmen renew their ties with Martin Doors

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China's landscape is changing with a strong economic force making it possible for wealthier people to move away from crowded apartment blocks and live in single-family homes.

The change has Chinese building suppliers, like Weijun Liang, owner of Shunde Huamei Industries Ltd., and his business manager, Ken Law, shopping abroad for home-building materials.

Liang and Law came to Salt Lake City to tour Martin Doors and renew friendship with owner Dave Martin, who has twice visited them in China.

Chao Chen, an American citizen who works for Martin Doors, translated many of Liang's sentiments regarding his visit and business.

Many business people are wary about any import-export business with China because the supplier may not be paid until an item is sold.

However, Chen said that Liang is willing to take risks and puts his own money into the operation to show good faith with his business partners. "With Mr. Liang and his personal financial strength, he is able to pay us half before we start production. And three days after he receives shipment, he will pay us the full amount. That is a very exceptional case."

Liang has sold only about 200 garage doors so far and has not made any money from this venture yet, Chen said. "But he's willing to sacrifice and look for long-run opportunities," Chen said.

Liang is the exclusive distributor for modern garage doors in Gundong Province. Currently, he has done business only in the community of Shunde, which is about a 90-minute drive from Hong Kong.

"Shunde has a population of 20 million, but it is only a small county. It potentially has a market of 23,000 garage doors," Chen said.

Since China has 30 other provinces, "We can imagine, with the 10 billion population, how big the market will be."

The Chinese or foreign investors who can afford homes of their own want to have single family structures in resortlike settings surrounding golf courses or other such amenities, Chen said. "They have brick-wall homes, Western style, pretty much like the United States."

Chen said he didn't want to mislead anyone about the overall conditions in China, since most people work at low wages and live in multifamily dwellings. But those who have money want to show their status.

"According to what Mr. Liang told me coming over here, he said he's pretty sure they can sell another 400 doors this year and probably 800 doors next year. That's how they perceive it. He's only selling in his own county — he hasn't gone to other neighboring counties yet," Chen said.

E-mail: lindat@desnews.com