Clarence Low- A Leader for Denver
By: Kayla Blomquist
Mr. Clarence Low, one of the Tai Initiative’s partners, is the president and board chair of the Asian Chamber of Commerce of Colorado. His work on U.S.-China subnational relations is helping grow the economy of Denver, and bring the 2nd Annual Regional Conference on U.S.-China Subnational Relations to Denver. Born and raised in San Francisco’s Chinatown, he moved to the Denver area eleven years ago. Now, in addition to serving as president and board chair of the ACC of Colorado, he is a commissioner for the Denver Asian Pacific American Commission, and serves on the governor’s Asian advisory council. He shares the Tai Initiative’s vision of developing local relationships with Chinese businesses and organizations, and is very excited for the opportunity to connect with organizations such as the Consul General of China’s office at this year’s conference.
In his work with the Asian Chamber of Commerce, Clarence Low works to develop networks between small businesses, local corporate partners, such as Excel Energy, and the Denver International Airport, and community partners including the City and County of Denver. From these relationships, many business opportunities are generated. For example, small business owners can employ corporate partners as suppliers or vendors, and networks between fellow small business owners can be expanded. The ACC and many other chambers of commerce help to drive local economic development.
Clarence also has a vision of inviting the office of the Consul General of China from Chicago here, and introducing them to the Denver Metropolitan Area’s Asian and Pacific Islander communities in order to build relationships internationally, locally, and culturally. He believes that it is a great time for China to create opportunities, as well as the U.S. to develop a much tighter relationship. He feels the conference in May will be a wonderful chance to appreciate similarities between American and Chinese cultures.
Leading up to this year’s conference, we sat down with Clarence Low, who is helping organize the conference. In the interview, we discussed the Asian Chamber of Commerce, the current state as well as the future of Denver-China subnational relationships, and the importance of celebrating similarities between cultures.
Tai Initiative (TI)-What is the purpose of the Asian Chamber of Commerce of Colorado?
Clarence Low (CL)-The primary purpose is to develop relationships between our small businesses and our local corporate members and community partners, such as the city and county of Denver, and the states minority business office. Often times when we talk about the corporate [companies], you can imagine there might be companies like Wells Fargo, and Excel Energy, Denver International Airport, even though they are technically a city-run organization.
Providing opportunities to small businesses and their owners to develop relationships with our community partners and those corporates with the idea of generating business opportunities. Whether they can be a supplier or a vendor to those organizations and to each other, fellow small businesses owners. In its own way, and with many other chambers of commerce, it is driving local economic development.
(TI) Since the ACC is involved in more than China related businesses, such as the recent developments in Japan’s relationship to Denver, do you see specific China-related interests in the Greater Denver Metropolitan area connecting to, or collaborating with, other Asian interests?
(CL) Our Rocky Mountain Area has a lot of industries that I think the Chinese would be very interested in partnering with. First and foremost, our renewable energies industries; we have a federal laboratory here in Golden that does a lot of good work in sustainable energy. Right now they’re moving into solar and wind. China being arguably the number one economic power in the world continues to use coal. There are pro’s and con’s to the use of that energy source. However, they are cognizant and forward thinking enough to look at other energy sources, so I think that is a really ripe opportunity to develop some international relationships there. Secondly, is our agricultural industry, while not as strong as some of the other states, is sustainable. I think the Chinese government would be interested in it. So really looking at those two industries, Chinese companies are looking to enter the US market, and conversely, US companies are looking to enter the Chinese market. We have many opportunities, which is why were very excited to be at this table.
(TI) Denver Mayor Hancock has recently announced an interest in making Denver truly join the stage of Global Cities. Can you comment on how you see the work of the ACC, The Tai Initiative and others assisting this vision?
(CL) Denver Mayor Hancock’s vision really aligns with the ACC. We have board members who serve on his commission called the Denver Asian Pacific American Commission. There are also folks who serve with the governor’s state Asian advisory council. Those two combined help provide guidance, input, cultural aspect of developing those relationships. I mentioned the Counselor General of China. Developing those kinds of relationships…I know that Mayor Hancock has had delegations on a regular interval go to Japan to develop that. Now with the assistance of United Airlines [and their recent expansion of direct flights to Asia], the goal is to build a really solid relationship. The ACC also shares that vision of developing Denver[’s] relationship with China, so we have strategically placed folks on our board and within our membership within the city and county of Denver offices.
(TI) After hearing about The Tai Initiative’s interest in coming to Denver, what drew your interest to working with them?
(CL) They share a common vision of reaching out and creating those relationships, both culturally and business-wise. We have companies here in the Denver-metro area that are already doing business internationally in China, whether it be in Beijing or Shanghai. Providing a spotlight to bring those companies together at a conference here in Denver in May is a wonderful opportunity.
(TI) What are some key lessons you’ve learned working in Denver that you think others working in U.S.-China relations fields should learn?
(CL) The first thing is that we have more similarities than differences, Often times we focus on our differences, but our similarities allow us to be a much better society. Focusing on that, I think that the opportunity to reach out and learn more about each other is important. When Hong Kong, for example, reverted back to China from England in ’99, China was very smart to leave Hong Kong alone, their little microcosm of capitalism. And now you see that their economy in Shanghai, for example has just blown up and I think it is a great time for China to create those opportunities, as well as the US to develop a much tighter relationship. As I said, share the similarities and celebrate them as well.
(TI) What would you say to someone interested in the conference, but is not certain whether it’s something they should attend?
(CL) China is not going away, nor is the Chamber’s effort to build upon those relationships. This is the first of many opportunities that we see here in the Denver area to establish and strengthen those relationships, so with respect to the CG of China, another thing that we’re looking to do is invite the ambassador of Malaysia here later on this year. I think the formally used term is Sino-American relations, we see a very interested population of companies here and those representatives who want to do business with each of those. This is one of many.