Township's prospects as bright as a button
The button business in Xitang features a comprehensive industrial cluster with a complete range of products and materials, ranging from metal and resin to natural shell and husk, as well as handcrafted items and those made with precision technology.
The township's button sector centers on the village of Dashun, which hosts 678 enterprises that together recorded industrial output of 5.8 billion yuan ($863 million) last year and contributed more than half of Xitang's tax revenue, according to local authorities.
Yu Shanfeng, 53, who leads a major enterprise and heads local industry associations, said Dashun is at an unprecedented high point in its development, with its production prowess poised for even greater heights.
"We have a century of button-related businesses here. The shift is now toward green, sustainable, innovative and technology-driven growth that leverages our experience and infrastructure as we consolidate our strengths," Yu said.
He also said that, as part of the green push and technological upgrading, one of his latest subsidiaries uses an intelligent manufacturing system that covers customer mobile orders, product tracking, quality control and logistics management, while also ensuring that emissions, wastewater and other byproducts are effectively processed and recycled.
"Our output value is set to hit 100 million yuan this year, doubling from last year's. Our staff of more than 200 people places a lot of emphasis on innovation, research and development," Yu said.
"Our recycled products go beyond clothes and textiles. They cover creative cultural products, bags, shoes, accessories and stationery. We're looking at 7 percent to 8 percent recycled items for our production so far and are targeting up to 70 percent of 'green' usage," he said.
The entrepreneurial spirit of local residents, coupled with their diligence, "must help fuel competitiveness and the buttons' move up the value chain", Yu added.
"We're now coming together within the industry for improved competitiveness. Local authorities, through incentives and support, have also helped spur tie-ups with over 20 leading enterprises, further fueling innovation," he said.
"Our development inroads not only improve the level of enterprise management, but also meet the high standards of our customers," Yu said.
"A hallmark of local enterprise is the full involvement of our residents in a major industry. Any significant development in the field means more shared prosperity among us all," he added.
Yu said the industry has made "a significant leap from quantitative change to qualitative change, allowing our century-old buttons to be inherited and developed in a sustainable way, and creating a new model of industrial innovation, transformation and upgrading at home and abroad".
"By boosting our development capabilities and working more closely together, I'm confident we can face international competition successfully," he said.
Qian Xiaogang, a deputy director of the management committee of the city of Jiaxing's comprehensive free trade zone, said local second-generation entrepreneurs have a global perspective and are in tune with the latest trends.
They give priority to environmental sustainability, e-commerce and other digital channels so that the industry can upgrade and stay ahead domestically and internationally, Qian said.
"From Europe to Asia, they have gone and looked abroad and are now tapping the global market, most notably through online platforms. Some of our buttons are already selling at much higher prices overseas," he said.
"Our young entrepreneurs are also exploring more overseas collaborations, to further participate in global conventions, exhibitions and trade shows in the US and Europe."
"It's not just production and sales. Our logistics networks and supply chains have been carefully developed," Qian added. "More than 1,000 major enterprises are involved in a full-sector loop."
Government support is also giving businesses room to expand and scale up, encouraging automation and other technological advances. This support is also bringing more businesses in line with industry standards and promoting green initiatives like emissions control and recycling, all of which is in line with the country's sustainability targets, he said.
"Emissions and proper wastewater discharge are essential. We are se