Chester County formalizes relationship with Chinese law firm

Front row: Nan Sato of Shimin Law; Shikun Gao of Shimin Law; Mike Grigalonis, COO at the Chester County Economic Development Council. Back row: Terence Farrell, Chester County Commissioner; Roger Huggins, partner at the West Chester law firm of Gawthrop Greenwood PC; Komeil Nasrollahi, manager of the program at Shimin Law.

Chester County’s efforts to increase business opportunities in China took another step forward recently with the establishment of a “China Desk.”

On Dec. 29, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between Chester County Economic Development Council and Shimin Law Offices.

Michael Grigalonis, chief operating officer of the Development Council, and Shikun Gao, partner at Shimin Law Offices, signed the memorandum at a ceremony in Philadelphia.

The mutual collaboration aims to promote Chester County and its businesses and attractions to parties in China. The goal is “to initiate, develop and expand relationships with Chinese investors, businesses and potential partners.”

“The major objective is to create a competitive advantage for companies in Chester County,” Grigalonis said earlier this week. “Hopefully we can create some value to the companies here in the county.”

With the relationship, Chester County businesses, through the China Desk, will have “a vetted, trusted partner we’ve developed a relationship with,” Grigalonis said.

China is seen as both a lucrative market and one filled with dangers for unwary U.S. companies. Many Chester County companies are already doing business in China but county officials, led by County Commissioner Terence Farrell, would like to see more.

“With China having the second largest economy in the world and growing, some day to surpass the United States, the place has always been fascinating to me,” Farrell said in explaining his interest in exploring the country as a potential market for Chester County companies.

Farrell has visited China multiple times with business delegations and has organized visits of Chinese officials to Chester County. Through the back-and-forth a joint venture was established in which officials from a southern Chester County mushroom business are helping to design and build a fresh mushroom operation in China.

“The interest has snowballed,” Farrell said. “It sort of developed organically. Now with this China Desk, it has formalized a relationship. It’s a question of networking.”

Roger Huggins, a partner in the West Chester law firm of Gawthrop Greenwood who helped arrange the contact with Shimin, said the object of the partnership is to give county businesses a contact, and to give Chinese interests the same. Grigalonis serves as the Chester County contact.

“I kind of liken it to the difference between a shotgun and a rifle shot,” Huggins said. “With the former, it’s hard to tell where you’re going, what you need, who you need to speak with, what’s the avenue in. And in my mind what this allows you to do is to take all that and just funnel it down to an initial, single, educated point of contact that can help steer you in the right direction as opposed to you trying yourself in a foreign environment.”

– To contact Business Writer Brian McCullough, call 610-235-2655 or send an email to

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