As leader of Nottinghamshire County Council, my brief is varied but does not often include international travel .
A notable exception to this was a recent official trip to China.
For some of the visit I was a guest of the University of Nottingham and I visited its impressive campus at Ningbo.
For the remainder of the visit I was in Hangzhou, the capital city of Zhejiang Province.
In April last year, Nottinghamshire signed a ‘friendship agreement’ with Zhejiang Province.
This agreement promotes trade and investment and collaboration in areas of culture, tourism, sport and education.
My recent trip was to cement the agreement and to act as a broker for some of our key partners who are also keen to explore options in China.
I was accompanied on my visit to Zhejiang by representatives of D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership, Nottingham Trent University and Nottingham Forest FC.
We worked with the Zhejiang Provincial Government to develop the strands of our agreement into deliverable actions.
All of this was helped by a high-level meeting with the Governor of Zhejiang, who welcomed us and encouraged further development of our friendship.
Whilst I was in China, I met with the chairman of the Zhejiang Shelf Company, which is opening a base in Mansfield, creating 20 jobs.
Having now seen for myself the potential in China, I am convinced that there are many opportunities.
In particular, this offers potential to link up our businesses and facilitate trade and investment.
Our work with China is very much in line with the council’s new four-year plan, ‘Your Nottinghamshire, Your Future’, which aims to make our county a great place to start and grow a business.
Our agreement also forms an important part of the Midlands Engine China Strategy, an initiative with strong Government backing.
Above all, my visit gave me a glimpse of the future and a sense of perspective of what rewards future investment in our own economy and infrastructure will bring us over the next 20 years as we edge ever closer to HS2, driverless cars, artificial intelligence and all manner of innovations which will change the way we live.
These innovations are growing at pace in China and it will be fascinating to see how we embrace this new technological revolution closer to home.
Whatever the future holds, I understand that people’s homes and families are important to them, and these, along with our history and heritage, are the precious things we will preserve as we move forward.