China Invests in a Small Illinois Town

31 May, 2017

Josh Kness works at the Mount Carroll Home Center in the American state of Illinois.

The home center sells many products for home improvement, tools and farm supplies.

Kness grew up in Mount Carroll, the capital of Carroll County, Illinois. He has helped farmers find what they need for the past 15 years.

Kness understands the business of farming. He says the drop in grain prices over the past two years has hurt farmers and slowed sales at the store.

"It's pretty simple," he said. "If they don't got money, they don't shop -- I mean, they are not fixing as many fences. They are not buying anything new. They are just not spending."

The Mount Carroll Home Center in Mount Carroll, Ill., sells many items to spruce up a home, but it also sells a wide variety of hardware items, tools and farm supplies.
The Mount Carroll Home Center in Mount Carroll, Ill., sells many items to spruce up a home, but it also sells a wide variety of hardware items, tools and farm supplies.

Businesses in small towns and rural areas depend on spending by farmers. If farmers reduce their spending, nearly everyone feels the effect. Any reduction affects the local feed and fertilizer store, soil testers, druggists, and the car and truck salesman.

But Kness says farmers in Carroll County understand that there are good years and bad years in agriculture.

"They are itching to get back in the fields again," he said.

Kness believes farmers cut back on spending last year because they were not sure about who would be elected president. He says Donald Trump's victory "left a lot of people shook up." But he said most people -- even many who did not vote for Trump -- seem willing to give him a chance to succeed.

Kness said people in his community do not listen to the political debates in Washington very closely. He said even fewer people are interested in international events, although local farmers sell a lot of their corn to other countries.

There are few immigrants living in Mount Carroll, but Kness said many foreigners pass through it in the summer. The Mississippi River forms the western edge of Carroll County, and there are many places along the river to visit.

Kness said he has seen many Chinese tourists during the warmer months. He said some come to his store to buy bait for fishing.

Kness said the Chinese have made investments in businesses in the area and purchased some buildings in Mount Carroll.

"I wonder what they are really doing," he said with a smile.

China has invested heavily in American agriculture in recent years. The Chinese have bought farmland and agriculture-related industries.

In 2012, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) accused seven Chinese nationals of stealing highly developed specialized seeds in Illinois and Iowa. The FBI accused them of attempting to smuggle the seeds out of the country.

Economic development officials working with Chinese investors say such incidents are rare. They note that China has invested billions of dollars in the United States. They say those investments have added more than 80,000 jobs to the U.S. economy.

VOA Correspondent Greg Flakus reported this story from Mount Carroll, Illinois. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted his report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section, or visit our 51VOA.COM.


Words in This Story

shop – n. to visit places where goods are sold in order to look at and buy things

fence – n. a structure like a wall built outdoors usually of wood or metal that separates two areas or prevents people or animals from entering or leaving

itch – n. a constant and strong desire for something or to do something

shook up – adj. upset; surprised; angry

bait – n. something (such as a piece of food) that is used to attract fish or animals so they can be caught

smuggle – v. to move (someone or something) from one country into another illegally and secretly