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Fundraising starts for S.A. Days in Shanghai

2010. 5 February

by David Hendricks
( On the site of the 1968 world's fair in San Antonio, local government and business leaders kicked off a $500,000 fundraising campaign Friday to secure three “San Antonio Days” at the upcoming Shanghai Expo 2010, expected to be the most-attended world's fair in history.

Private companies must come up with a $200,000 cash deposit by Feb. 17, said former Mayor Henry Cisneros, who is coordinating the fundraising effort along with City Councilwoman Elisa Chan, both at the request of Mayor Julián Castro.

May 25, 26 and 27 have been tentatively scheduled for the three San Antonio Days at the Shanghai Expo, which is expected to be attended by more than 70 million people.

The $500,000 from San Antonio will be used to help pay for the $61 million U.S. Pavilion, which is listed in Chinese surveys as the top destination Chinese visitors want to see during the world's fair's six-month run beginning May 1.

The $500,000 will give city officials use of the U.S. Pavilion's VIP rooms for invitation-only events, along with two weeks of video and exhibit displays.

Port San Antonio has pledged $75,000 in cash and $25,000 in the form of services, the industrial park confirmed Friday. County Commissioner Kevin Wolff said Commissioners Court will vote on Tuesday on a proposal for a Bexar County contribution of $25,000.

Companies that have been approached for contributions include H-E-B, NuStar Energy LP, Valero Energy Corp., Rackspace Hosting Inc. and San Antonio law offices with affiliate offices in China and Asia, Cisneros and Chan said.

Chinese media have reported that more than 20 million Shanghai Expo tickets have been sold, said San Antonio native Jose Villarreal, who was appointed the U.S. commissioner general by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last year. Villarreal is a senior adviser with Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, but will live in Shanghai during the fair's run.

Only about six U.S. cities are raising money to have days set aside for them at the U.S. Pavilion, Villarreal said. To date, about $54 million has been raised from private-sector donors, mainly corporations, for the U.S. Pavilion, he added.

“The metropolitan connection is working now,” said Cisneros, citing existing San Antonio companies that do business with Chinese firms. “It's the gritty, grimy stuff of what we do to create incomes.”

Chan, who was born in Taiwan and is one of the few Chinese-born elected officials in the United States, said San Antonio has a once-in-a-lifetime chance to market itself to China and people around the world. “This will further enhance our business opportunities in China,” Chan said.

Castro is scheduled to lead a city delegation, which will be open to the public, to the Shanghai Expo during San Antonio Days in May.

In September, the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce will sponsor a delegation that will visit China and the Shanghai Expo mainly for tourism, chamber President and CEO Richard Perez said. The Sept. 13-22 tour will cost $2,600 for chamber members and $3,000 for nonmembers, and will include transportation, hotel rooms, 22 meals and Shanghai Expo tickets. An information session is scheduled for 5 p.m. Wednesday at the chamber's North Side office at 1100 N.W. Loop 410, Suite 109.