Learning the language
- December 29, 2009
Chuck Hoover Jr. practices Chinese every morning as he drives to work. The CD language course he is taking allows him to listen to a half-hour lesson during his commute. He isn’t proficient in Chinese yet, but he’s trying to master it as quickly as possible.
Hoover, the chief operating officer for Hoover Color Corp. in Pulaski County, travels to Shanghai three to five times each year to meet with distributors and potential customers. “I might do some training as well,” he says.
The pigments made by his company are sold by chemical distributors throughout the world. Shanghai is home to distributors who handle central and northern China. The city also serves as a manufacturing center for the country. “They all sell our earth colors of sienna, umber and ocher, which are our specialty,” Hoover says.
Hoover Color also buys materials from international sources, such as red ore from Spain and umbers from Cypress. “Rocks aren’t made the same everywhere,” Hoover explains. “Customers are looking for specific colors with our earth pigments.”
Hoover Color followed customers such as furniture companies and stain manufacturers when they began moving their operations to Asia. On a recent trip, Hoover traveled to Shanghai with Crayola representatives to help ensure the quality of its products, everything from crayons and markers to paints and compounds used in items such as Silly Putty. “We talked to suppliers to make sure they are doing what needs to be done to keep contaminants out of Crayola’s products,” he explains.
Hoover likes the fact that Shanghai is a very modern city in many ways. “It has a great combination of modern style and ancient China as well as a strong colonial period,” he says.
Located on the Yangtze River, Shanghai — China’s largest city — sits on the country’s eastern coastline. The city’s skyline includes skyscrapers and historic Chinese landmarks as well as many examples of Soviet-inspired architecture built by the Chinese in the 1950s and 1960s.
On his visits, Hoover enjoys walking through the Yuyuan Garden built during the Ming Dynasty (14th-17th centuries). Located in the Old City, the garden is the city’s largest and includes walls topped by sculpted dragons and the Grand Rockery, home to a legendary five-ton rock as well as cliffs and caves. “I enjoy seeing old family courtyard gardens,” he says.
The city’s economy
Shanghai is one of the world’s busiest ports. The city’s diverse economic base includes manufacturing, technology and finance. Shanghai has a number of industrial zones such as the Jinqiao Export Processing Zone in Pudong New Area. Manufacturing in the area ranges from electronics to steel products.
Companies headquartered in Shanghai include Sinopec Shanghai Petrochemical Co. Ltd., a petroleum and petrochemical products producer; Cortelco Shanghai Telecom Equipment Co., a telecommunications equipment developer; Shanghai Tiger Storage & Logistics Equipment Co. Ltd., a logistics and industrial equipment provider; and Shanghai Sipi Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., a state-owned group of companies producing biochemicals and herbal extract products.
Where to eat
Whenever he’s in Shanghai, Hoover visits the New Jishi Restaurant, which serves buns (a steamed rice dough roll with filling). His favorite dish is barbecued pork. “It’s like a sandwich without the bread,” he explains. “It throws Westerners off initially because it doesn’t look like it’s cooked, but it is.”
Another regular stop: Good Hot Pot, offers the Chinese version of fondue. “They bring out raw fish or steak, etc. and dip it in hot soup and cook it. At the end of the meal you add noodles and vegetables and drink the soup.” Hoover also frequents the Really Good Seafood Restaurant.
Where to stay
Hoover prefers the five-star Shanghai JC Mandarin hotel with views of Nanjing Road. The hotel sits across from other high-end properties such as The Portman Ritz Carlton, a luxury hotel near the Jing An District. The Portman features six restaurants as well as a health club with swimming pool. “The higher-end hotels are more comfortable working with foreigners,” Hoover says. “It’s nice having someone you can rely on and who will understand you.”