Restaurant boss, community leader and all-round good guy James Wong talks of his passion for Birmingham and China Town
Please introduce yourself
I’m James Wong, managing director of the Chung Ying restaurant group. I’m also on the board of the Southside BID and the new chair of the Birmingham Chinese Festival committee.
What does your company do?
We operate three Chinese restaurants within the city: Chung Ying and Chung Ying Garden in Southside Chinatown and Chung Ying Central on Colmore Row.
Is Brum a good place to do business?
Birmingham is a fantastic place do business. We have great infrastructure and transport links. The business community is currently thriving. A lot of investment has been put in and more is being attracted. With such a rich diversity it’s a very exciting place to be.
What are your biggest gripes with it?
We are great at encouraging entrepreneurs and small businesses to succeed and there’s a lot of support such as access to funding and grants on offer. There is a little more work to do on letting some of these people know about what’s available to them as not everyone would instantly know where to go and who to approach.
How do you feel your clients see the city?
I have customers from all walks of life – business, social, our Chinese community, visitors to the area and more and they all have their own individual thoughts on Birmingham. The general feeling tends to be that Birmingham is really up and coming. It’s seen as a sleeping giant that has really woken up over the last few years.
Does Birmingham offer any particular advantages as a destination for business?
We have a lot of good things to shout about, but I think the advantage here is that there is still a lot of opportunity for people who want to invest in the city. There is room for more in many areas of business. There are also great advantages within our huge student population. That is a big market for those who want to sell into it and invest in it.
What should our priorities be as a city?
At the moment we should be focused heavily on marketing ourselves better for investment and tourism. With more direct flights available to Birmingham our accessibility internationally has never been better. Birmingham was recently named the UK’s most investable city and we need to keep pushing this.
If you had £1bn to spend on improving Brum what would you do with it?
Chinatown is close to my heart so, for me, I would really like to develop the area and help to grow its community. I’d love to transform it into the biggest Chinatown in the world! I’m also very passionate about the charities within Chinatown, who help children and the elderly. I would like to ensure they are able to continue to offer the best support and care possible. On a wider scale, I’m very keen to keep building bridges between Birmingham and China, to encourage increased investment between the two.