Levy was introduced to the wealthy businesspeople during a trip to China last month. He said he was hopeful he could secure investments in real estate, manufacturing, education and pharmaceuticals, among others.
While his trip was initially aimed at luring a food-processing plant to Suffolk, Levy said he learned that wealthy Chinese executives are looking to put their money into myriad industries. He also said he saw opportunities for local companies to export goods and services to the Asian behemoth.
"The people we met with have a lot of cash, and they want to invest it elsewhere [outside their home countries]," Levy said in an interview. "Some have agreed to come here, and that's where the decisions will be made as to whether we can make a deal."
An investor from China is expected to tour Suffolk after July 16 as part of a trip to New York City. Levy plans to show him 10 properties, including office buildings and vacant land. The investor already owns a restaurant chain and real estate in the United States, along with hotels, offices and tourism-related businesses in China, according to Suffolk officials.
Another investor from South Korea will visit Suffolk in August. She owns real estate in Manhattan and is involved in the cosmetics industry, the officials said.
"The investors were very intrigued by the fact that we are close to New York City yet we have a lot of land in which to grow . . . Many have businesses in New York City," Levy said. "They [investors] are very diverse. It's not just the potential of a food-processing plant, if at all."
The plant, which could employ up to 500 people making soda and ready-to-eat meals, is what attracted Levy to make the overseas trip. He and Yves Michel, Suffolk's economic development commissioner, met politicians and businesspeople in Xuwen County, located on a peninsula at the southern tip of the Chinese mainland.
In an elaborate ceremony, Levy and Xuwen Executive Lin Haiwu signed a sister-county agreement. Levy also met businesspeople from Hong Kong and Beijing, the nation's capital. "Nothing concrete at the moment. It's really going to take this follow-up meeting to see if we can get them to sign on the dotted line," he said.
Michel agreed, adding, "This trip was an important step toward increasing our county's presence in emerging global markets, and with our foreign trade zone we are in a great position to attract additional foreign investment."
The trade zone offers lower or no import duties for tenants, along with other tax benefits.
Levy's trip was paid for by the Chinese investors.
Last night, Levy urged local companies to embrace international trade, particularly with burgeoning China and India. He acknowledged the high level of counterfeiting and theft of intellectual property in China but said the country's rapid growth cannot be passed up. Millions of people there will enter the middle class in the next few years, boosting consumption.
"The playing field isn't level," Levy told about 70 people at a Long Island Business Development Council dinner. "They don't play by the rules, but we have to be there."