The scale of our global footprint
By Sarah Ford
October 18, 2016
One of the key objectives of the Young Leaders Fellowship Program in China is to improve cross-cultural relations and gain a better understanding of each participant’s respective company operations in China. After an informative and exciting visit to the Shanghai Free Trade Zone, I embarked upon an adventure to visit Changzhou, home to AGCO Corporation’s newest manufacturing facility. AGCO is the third largest agricultural company in the world, and the Changzhou facility is the only Massey Ferguson (MF) plant in the APAC region to produce tractors, serving as a hub for global series tractors and a supplier of parts to other markets.
Changzhou is more than two hours north of Shanghai by car (without traffic); therefore, it warrants a series of trains to make the journey. Fortunately, China offers an impressive high-speed railway system spanning 819 miles with speeds reaching 300 km/h. China’s high tech transportation allowed me to complete the afternoon trip before an evening dinner on the Bund with Georgia State University President, Dr. Mark Becker.
During my train ride, I reflected on my recent experiences of the fellowship. I am mindful of the importance of the agricultural industry because most of the expansive industrial parks we visited now occupy what was once farmland. At Suzhou Industrial Park, I inquired if the displaced farmers that once lived and worked on the same land moved elsewhere, and was informed that they subsequently changed their profession to become service workers. This is a perfect example of the evolution of China’s economy.
Gengen Li, one of my colleagues in China greeted me at the train station upon arrival. After a 40-minute car ride from the station, I spotted the iconic Massey Ferguson Red and saw that we had arrived! I met several colleagues based in the Changzhou office and then toured the facility. I was incredibly impressed by the order, efficiency, innovation, and technological advancement displayed. Despite China’s ongoing transformation into a service economy, seeing the AGCO manufacturing operations provided perspective into how important manufacturing in China remains as well as the business opportunities that exist for American companies in China.
Although I was unable to witness the live assembly of a tractor, I was able to see the final product. In fact, I had the privilege of seeing the entire process from start to finish and for the first time, sat on a tractor (see below)!
As I departed the facility, I experienced a powerful moment of perspective in front of the global map of AGCO’s operations, which spans the entire wall of the lobby. Standing in front of this map in China, with a tiny red star indicating our HQ in Duluth, offered a profound realization of the scale of our global footprint.
After we said our goodbyes, I braved the public transit once again and made the trek alone back to Shanghai. Rush hour on the subway in Shanghai is an experience in itself. I had exactly forty minutes to make it from Hongqiao Station to Lost Heaven on the Bund for dinner with the group and Dr. Becker. But after I caught my breath, I am escorted to an oasis with the most delicious food and stellar hosts. Farewell, Shanghai!
Stay tuned for more! The Beijing-Shanghai High Speed Railway is up next!
Sarah Ford is currently Chairperson for the Young Leaders of the World Affairs Council of Atlanta and Senior Executive Assistant to the Chairman, President, CEO and Board of Directors of AGCO Corporation.
Prior to her role at AGCO, she was the Development Director at Covenant Community, Inc., a non-profit organization and life stabilization program serving homeless men suffering from substance abuse. Sarah is most passionate about helping others and has a comprehensive background in managerial and administrative expertise with non-profit organizations and NGOs both domestic and abroad.
Her international work includes serving as a liaison officer for the London 2012 Olympic Games. She assisted in the establishment of a computer lab and library at Thika School for the Visually Impaired in Kenya. In 2016, Sarah was appointed as a member to two boards of directors in Kenya: The BridgeAfrica and Amani Empowerment Foundation. She is a member of UNICEF NextGen, the French American Chamber of Commerce of the Southeast, the Swedish American Chamber of Commerce of the Southeast and the Georgia Council for International Visitors.
Sarah received a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations from Agnes Scott College. She is proficient in German and Spanish and is a classical pianist. Sarah enjoys reading, volunteering, and international travel in her spare time.
Although Sarah has traveled extensively on five continents, this will be her first visit to China. She is thrilled and very grateful for this incredible opportunity.
Homma Rafi | YLFPChina Media Contact
Office of International Initiatives, Georgia State University