Enabler of Happiness: Taoyuan County?s Eric Chu
First Class Service, Top Flight Productivity
Within six short years Taoyuan County has emerged as Taiwan's most productive area. The next challenge for its magistrate will be to give Taoyuan a more international outlook.
First Class Service, Top Flight ProductivityBy Scott Wang
From CommonWealth Magazine (vol. 380 )
When you set foot in the Taoyuan Government Building, you are greeted on the left-hand side by two man-shaped advertisement boards with smiling faces. Donning flight attendant uniforms, middle-aged employees from the county government’s Bureau of Economic Development posed for these boards. Although they don’t look as attractive as real flight attendants, their friendly and professional appearance builds a sense of trust in the hearts of the county’s citizens.
“It’s not easy for middle-aged mothers to dress in a youthful and fashionable way, but if with the help of experts they dress up, use make-up and wear uniforms, citizens will find everything fresh and new,” says the Bureau’s Director-General Randy C.T. Chiang in explaining the rationale behind the freshen-up campaign.
The uniforms were the first step that Taoyuan County magistrate Eric Liluan Chu took toward revamping the county’s business services. After consultations with Citibank, E. Sun Bank and domestic carrier Eva Air, Chu initiated an assessment of the county’s entire business registration process. He prides himself on launching a campaign for administrative services that are on a par with airlines’ preferential services. His program has changed the stereotype of the inefficient, grumpy civil servant overnight. In Taoyuan ordinary citizens also enjoy “first-class” treatment when dealing with civil servants.
Since the VIP services project kicked off last year, more than 80 percent of surveyed citizens praised the scheme. And thanks to the streamlining of business service procedures, citizens have saved a total of 5.66 million minutes of waiting time up to now.
“The VIP services program gave our government the reputation of having quality services. As a result businesspeople have confidence when setting up factories, company headquarters or R&D centers in Taoyuan County,” argues Chu.
Northern Taiwan’s Third Giant
In the past Taoyuan County felt dwarfed by its giant neighbors, the Taipei metropolitan area and Hsinchu City. As a major manufacturing base, Taoyuan used to be crowded with ugly, corrugated iron workshops and factories, its streets were narrow and crowded, and ambitious junior high school graduates left in droves to attend prestigious senior high schools in Taipei City. The old Taoyuan made people want to get away, to go elsewhere.
Since taking up his post more than six years ago, Chu has run his county like a corporation, viewing Taoyuan County as a brand and himself as its CEO. Chu hopes to make Taoyuan northern Taiwan’s third giant alongside Taipei and Hsinchu, competing and cooperating with its two dominant neighbors.
Chu’s strategy for this breakthrough is competing with other counties and cities in terms of better administrative efficiency, and more actively soliciting investors. “I want my county’s performance to improve day by day,” he says in describing his ambition.
Within just six years more than ten optoelectronics makers, semiconductor fabs and corporate headquarters have moved to Taoyuan County, making it a global optoelectronics center. Together with the Taipei Neihu Technology Park and the Hsinchu Science Park, Taoyuan forms the “northern Taiwan technology corridor,” occupying a place on the global technology map that mirrors Silicon Valley on the west coast of the United States.
Aside from gunning for investment from the high-tech industry, Chu also attaches importance to the development of traditional industries. Every month he makes regular visits to local small- and medium-sized enterprises.
Successfully Wooing Business Pumps Up Productivity
“Everyone has their eyes set on high-tech industry. They all forget these hard-working entrepreneurs in the traditional industries who have quietly posted many firsts,” Chu says. Therefore, he has ordered the county’s Bureau of Economic Development and Tourism Promotion Bureau to work together to develop factory tours in cooperation with the travel industry, to introduce the brands of these traditional industries to visitors from other parts of Taiwan and abroad.
Chu’s strategy to lure investors has worked out. Besides high-tech factories, Taoyuan County also boasts almost 400 manufacturers of automobile parts and components, more than 1,000 logistics companies, and nine storage and wholesales enterprises, which make for a comprehensive mix of industry and commerce seldom seen elsewhere on the island. Taoyuan is also the county with the highest productivity.
In the first quarter of 2007, the county’s output stood at NT$2.2 trillion. It has also overtaken all other counties and cities in terms of tax revenue, which rose from just NT$90 billion five years ago to nearly NT$200 billion last year.
Fastest Job Creation, Fastest Population Growth
Chu has not only successfully lured entrepreneurs to Taoyuan, he also created some 20,000 new jobs which triggered an influx of young people to the once shunned county.
The local population increased from 1.65 million six years ago to almost 1.9 million people today. Taoyuan boasts not only Taiwan’s fastest growing population, but also its youngest, with an average age of 33.1 years.
“The more employment opportunities you create, the more hope you build,” Chu points out.
Chu has created the youngest community, and he also has the courage to let young people head bureaus and departments. In the county government the average bureau or department head is about 40 years of age. Randy Chiang, who as head of the Bureau of Economic Development has the heavy task to steer the county’s economic future, was born in the 1970s.
Youngest Civil Servants Serve Youngest Community
“When young people take senior posts, they are creative and have the energy to push things forward. If veteran civil servants who are familiar with laws and regulations serve as their deputies, they are like childminders who can protect them from behind. The two complement each other,” Chu explains.
But after striving for administrative reform, Taoyuan County no longer competes merely with other counties and cities in Taiwan, it also intends to compete with other cities around the world. Chu is inspired by Kansai International Airport in Japan and Shanghai’s Pudong Airport, which both function as regional transshipment centers, provide highly efficient logistics services and have triggered robust urban development. But while Taoyuan has an international airport too, policies and regulations constrain its potential so that it is difficult to effectively develop into a logistics and transfer center for the Asia-Pacific region. Chu does not hesitate to cite this as the major obstacle for Taoyuan County’s further economic progress.
“Be it Taiwanese businessmen who invest in China or other individuals, they probably have their factories or jobs overseas. When they are tired from working so hard, Taoyuan County, as Taiwan’s gate to the world, will be their most comfortable home,” Chu says with confidence.
During the remaining two years of his second term, Chu will find his political wisdom put to the test. Will he manage to make the Taoyuan “brand” shine brighter and take his county onto the international stage?
Translated from the Chinese by Susanne Ganz
Chinese Version: 頭等艙服務，生產力第一