Ernest Barbella on Qingdao, China

My career in the food industry includes extensive experience with retail and manufacturing companies in the United States and abroad. After holding senior executive roles at grocery companies The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, Inc. (A&P), Hills Supermarkets, and the Wakefern Food Corporation, I owned and operated five successful supermarkets on Long Island, New York. Although I sold the Long Island stores in 1995, I entered the international market by acquiring a pasta packaging company with a global customer base and founding a spice manufacturing company in the seaside city of Qingdao, China.

As a popular vacation destination, Qingdao draws visitors with its sandy beaches, picturesque architecture, and famous beer. However, Qingdao also possesses a long history as a strategic and commercial port. Located on the east coast of Shandong Province, just across the Yellow Sea from both Japan and Korea, Qingdao spent years under German and Japanese occupation. As a German colony from 1898 to 1914, the fishing village became a center of naval activity and industrial enterprise. Part of the latter included the 1903 establishment of what would eventually become Tsingtao Brewery, the oldest Chinese brewery in operation today.

Since rejoining the People’s Republic of China in 1949, Qingdao has experienced steady economic growth as one of the first Chinese cities open to overseas investment. In addition, Qingdao has developed a national reputation as a model for environmental sustainability; as a center of marine research, the city boasts several pilot programs to improve waste disposal, air quality, and resource protection. Qingdao’s seven national development zones host industries that range from agriculture to information technology, and more than 2,000 international companies have established permanent bases in the city to date. As one of these firms, the spice company I founded produces more than 250 different items for retailers in countries around the world, including Australia, Panama, and the Bahamas.

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