Kennett Square-Based Mushroom Grower Breaks Ground in China

An owner of one of Chester County’s largest mushroom growers has just broken ground on another venture: a state-of-the-art mushroom production facility in China.

Chris Alonzo, who is also an owner of Pietro Industries based in Kennett Square, joined Chester County Commissioner Terence Farrell and Michael Grigalonis, Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President of the Chester County Economic Development Council, at the groundbreaking ceremony near Shanghai.

Both Farrell and Grigalonis were key to introducing Alonzo and his management team to Chinese entrepreneurs, after the pair hosted 12 delegations in the last three years in Chester County. It’s the latest success story for Chester County businesses expanding to China.

“This is an impressive development as we prepare, in Chester County, to host two more delegations from China in early November and in December,” said Grigalonis. “The ramifications are substantial not only for this local business leader, but also for the network of local businesses that support the mushroom industry in our region and now in China.”

“This is a major step forward for the Chester County China Initiative, a joint program between the Chester County Commissioners and CCEDC tasked with developing relationships between China and Chester County to bring lasting benefits to businesses and residents of Chester County,” said Farrell.

“A portion of the funding for this project will be poured back into future initiatives for local businesses in China.”

Almost 400 people attended the extravagant groundbreaking ceremony that concluded with the firing of canons last week in Funan County, Anhui Province, near Shanghai. The event occurred on 10/10 at 10:18 AM. (The number 18 is associated with prosperity in China.)

Last May, the Chester County China Initiative sent its largest delegation yet to China, with Chester County government and business leaders exploring business opportunities during visits to Beijing, Xi’an, Chongqing (Yongchuan District), Shanghai, and Yangzhou.

The trip was also designed to identify possible Chinese investors for projects in Chester County. At the time, Alonzo was on the verge of signing the agreement with Chinese entrepreneurs that resulted in last week’s groundbreaking.

“Domestic demand for fresh mushrooms in China is growing fast, and the mushrooms we grow locally are getting popular all over China,” said Alonzo. “The construction of this new facility in China enables us to grow fresh and safe food for one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.”

Since fresh mushrooms don’t travel, the new facility is for Chinese domestic consumption only. Therefore, the establishment of the mushroom facility proves no threat to the Chester County mushroom industry.

Alonzo says that people in China consume more mushrooms per capita than Americans, and they enjoy many varieties. In the first phase of the project, he expects to grow about 12,000,000 pounds of mushrooms and provide jobs for approximately 200 people. The farm plans to become one of the larger single-site producers of mushrooms in the world.

During last week’s trip, CCEDC and the Chester County Commissioners also opened a China Desk in Shanghai that has been two years in the making. Located at Shimin Law, which also has offices in Philadelphia, the China Desk is designed to help Chester County-area companies gain a toehold in China by helping local companies learn about the China market, as well as find and vet potential business partners.

Also, at the Chester County Board of Commissioners meeting earlier this week, the commissioners formally approved a sister agreement with Funan County, Anhui Province, where the groundbreaking occurred. Such agreements are especially meaningful to Chinese officials, who have also inked “sister county” agreements with Chester County and Yongchuan District, Chongqing Province; as well as Xixian New Area, Shaanxi Province.

The Chester County Commissioners and CCEDC have hosted 12 delegations from China in the past three years. They’ve also made four previous trips to China since 2014 to foster ties with Chinese officials and business leaders.

Such meetings have helped local businesses to gain work in China. Levante Brewing Company of West Chester is exploring opportunities to bring Levante beers to China. Other Chester County businesses that have participated are ABD International, LLC, Symmetrical Investments, LLC, Eternity International Trading Co. and Janice Kelsey of Solar CITIES, Inc.

For those interested in learning more about the Chester County China Initiative, please contact Mike Grigalonis or Terence Farrell.

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