Workers construct a public service building in Xiongan. (Photo by Zhu Xingxin/China Daily)
After a year of waiting and preparation, local and external entrepreneurs are ready to start their businesses in Xiongan New Area in North China's Hebei Province.
The country established Xiongan on April 1 last year as another new area with national significance after China's Shenzhen Special Economic Zone and the Shanghai Pudong New Area.
Since then, people from all walks of life have been considering participation in the development of Xiongan so as to take a share of its achievement.
Che Chengguo figured out a way after he moved to Rongcheng county in Xiongan from Daqing city, Heilongjiang province, in mid-April last year, right after the new area was announced.
"Although Xiongan is conceived as an innovative center with high-tech and smart things being the main elements, it still needs the services sector, especially for newcomers," Che said.
According to the National Enterprise Credit Information Publicity System, more than 50 State-owned and private companies have registered branches in Xiongan during the past year.
The companies include China Communications Construction Co, a major State-owned transportation infrastructure construction company, and private companies such as tech giants Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent.
"There are also more than a thousand companies that have come to Xiongan, but they haven't successfully registered due to current (environment-related and policy) restrictions," Che said, adding that companies in the services sector and firms run by locals are receiving approvals more easily than others.
Their Xiongan subsidiaries will need office furniture, advertising services and employees, who may be transferred from headquarters in big cities. So, services like restaurants will see high demand, Che said.
"But the newly born Xiongan can't meet such needs yet because the area is like a blank sheet of paper. There's nothing here like in big cities," he said.
Located about 100 kilometers southwest of downtown Beijing, Xiongan is mainly made up of Xiongxian, Rongcheng and Anxin counties in Hebei's Baoding, a less developed region.
Together with three friends, Che founded a company in Xiongan to offer services to newly set up firms and their employees.
In the catering field, they opened three restaurants for Japanese food, Chinese hotpot and specialties of Sichuan province in Rongcheng county, where most subsidesiari of established firms are located.
By June, another five restaurants will be opened to enrich the varieties of food, including seafood and Dongbei cuisine, specialities of Northeast China.
Che's firm also opened stores to sell office furniture and has an advertising department to provide related services.
"All the businesses turned out to be profitable given the market need," Che said.
But he is also facing competition and challenges. Entrepreneurs are not rare now in Xiongan, especially in the services sector.
"Many local residents, who have lost their old jobs in traditional industries, are also thinking how to find new ways to eke out a livelihood," Che said.
Thus, services are becoming popular. Wang Cheng, a taxi driver at Rongcheng county, said he used to manage a family business to make plastic products. It was shut after Xiongan was created.
"I haven't figured out what I can do to earn a living now and have not much choice but to drive my car to ferry passengers," Wang said.
"Maybe in the future, I'll open a restaurant," Wang said, adding that the income from the taxi is much too low compared to his earnings as a business manager.
Another challenge for Che is the education for his 16-year-old daughter, who is still studying back in his hometown.
"My wife has travelled with me here, and I hope my daughter can live with us after related policies are nailed down in Xiongan," Che said.
Like Che, many entrepreneurs and private firms are seeking business opportunities in the area. Li Jingtai, a resident of Xiongxian county, said that, "after Xiongan was established, many of my friends who work in Beijing and other cities asked me if there's any chance to do business in Xiongan."
He said they wanted to come and explore potential opportunities, but didn't know a thing about local policies or the current situation.
So, Li initiated the Xiongxian Youth Startups Promotion Association, an organization to help people start up in the new area.
The association was officially approved in February and has more than 60 registered members.
According to Li, many of the members were born in the counties of Xiongan but are working in other places such as Beijing, Guangdong province or other regions.
"No one has settled down, but they are preparing and will come as long as related policies are made clear. We are ready to sprint on hearing the 'Go' signal. "Li said.