On the heels of Tennessee's push to strengthen business ties with China, Nashville's Dr. Ming Wang has started the Tennessee Chinese Chamber of Commerce.

The Nashville-based organization is the first in the state and has dual purposes: helping Tennessee-based companies conduct business in China, and attracting China-based businesses to Tennessee.

"I want us to grow our trade in China," Wang says. "We need to be better prepared and better organized."

John Butler, vice president of international business for the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, says having a chamber that will focus on China is an advantage for Tennessee.

"It allows us to leverage the Chinese community and leverage their contacts, which in this case are in China," Butler says.

In recent months, Tennessee has made major strides in gaining Chinese business.

Gov. Phil Bredesen plans to travel to China in October to open a state economic development office in Beijing. And city officials are working to have Nashville considered as a location for a Chinese Consulate.

Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell and a host of business and civic leaders traveled to China in April, focusing their trip on the cities of Beijiing, Shanghai and Taiyuan. The entourage included representatives from the health care, manufacturing, construction, retail and finance sectors.

According to the U.S. China Business Council, Tennessee leads all states in export growth to China. The state had $1.8 billion in trade with China last year, which is a 1,000 percent increase over five years ago. Wang says there is room for even more growth.

Wang invested $10,000 in start-up capital for the organization and each of the six board members invested $2,500.

Board members are all Chinese, but membership is open to all businesses. Its target members are companies that want to do business with China.

Wang, founder of the Wang Vision Institute, will serve as president of the organization.

Other board members are: Dr. Qiang Wu of Newtrans International; John Ma, of Palm International, Dr. Hong Fang of Microbialnovotegs; Xingkui Guo of the Tennessee Chinese Times; and David Lin of Fulin Chinese Restaurant.

Wang says most people think of restaurants when they think of Chinese businesses, but he points out that there are Chinese-owned businesses in many industries including the medical field, technology and consulting services.

He says there are hundreds of Chinese-owned businesses in Tennessee. One of the goals of the Chinese Chamber will be to compile statistics on those businesses.

Other goals include: hosting delegations from China to America and delegations from America to China; and providing educational seminars.

Wang says China's private health care industry is booming and could bring opportunities for Tennessee businesses. There's also opportunity for Nashville's entertainment businesses because there is a growing music industry in China.

By Cynthia Yeldell  –  Nashville Business Journal  Updated