Accounting firm works with Chinese companies to help grow the local economy.
By Matthew Totsky
For more than 40 years, Bingham Farms-based accounting firm Mellen, Smith & Pivoz has provided high-quality and personalized service to a broad range of clients.
“We work to know their business and their goals and tailor our services to fit those needs,” says Mark Smith, a managing member and CPA at the firm. “We understand that every company is different and every business has different needs. Our goal is to offer specialized services to fit those needs.”
Recently, Mellen, Smith & Pivoz has seen a significant shift in the number of international clients on its roster, specifically those from China.
“Over the last 10 to 15 years, our firm has developed a rather significant Chinese practice,” Smith says. “The Chinese want to do business in the U.S., and it is a growing market here in Michigan. Gov. Rick Snyder has made numerous trips to China to encourage businesses to come to Michigan and be a part of all of the positive things going on here.”
Mellen, Smith & Pivoz currently has several Chinese-American accountants on its staff, including partner and CPA Peijin Wu Hoppe. A native of Shanghai, she has been an integral part of helping the firm expand its Chinese client list.
“She brings knowledge as well as a cultural connection about what Chinese businesses — many of which are auto-related — need to do to set up shop here,” Smith says. “These companies send a delegation from China to tour the area, and we help them to learn what they need to know to get things started. Then, we assist them with financial reporting and provide accounting and auditing services. We provide tax consulting and tax preparation services and assist with applications to qualify for state, county and local incentives.”
Smith is quick to point out the positive aspects of Chinese companies moving into the local marketplace.
“It’s been my personal experience that the Chinese owners and key management employees are extremely excited to do business here. They value the relationships they make and are committed to their success here in the U.S.,” he says. “Their companies have become substantial in size and employ managers, engineers and plant employees. They are providing many local jobs and opportunities and are contributing to the growth of the local economy. And we are happy to be a part of that.”
Hoppe agrees with this sentiment.
“The Chinese companies like doing business here because Michigan has good incentives,” she says. “In 2014, we completed three incentive packages that resulted in more than 1,000 jobs — and there’s more on the horizon. These companies come here because of the Big Three. Michigan is such a strong spot for Chinese automotive companies because of the skilled work force. There are so many engineers here and the Chinese businesses hire a lot of them. A Michigan presence helps these companies branch out to other states and other areas, including IT.”
This trend can be seen as a positive one for Michigan and the surrounding states.
“A lot of people have preconceived ideas about China and other low-cost labor markets,” Hoppe says. “But the truth of the matter is that they come in and establish manufacturing operations here instead of transferring the jobs back to China. This is the reverse of what was going on 10 to 15 years ago. Instead of transferring jobs overseas, they are creating more jobs in the U.S.
“A perfect example is one of our clients — an automotive parts supplier — in Warren,” she says. “Originally they had about 10 employees, and over the next two years increased to over 300 employees in Michigan. Recently, they built a new plant in Missouri and are considering additional facilities and hundreds of jobs in two other Southern states. They started as a small operation but grew quickly and, ultimately, created many more jobs at all levels.”
Mellen, Smith & Pivoz enjoys a strong affiliation with the Detroit Chinese Business Association.
“It’s an organization that helps connect Chinese business people with members of the Detroit business community,” Smith says. “They have a big gala every year close to the Chinese New Year at the end of February.
“This year’s event was held at the Sound Board at MotorCity Casino. Like last year, Gov. Snyder was the keynote speaker, and our firm was one of the sponsors. We had about 20 people there, including clients and members of the firm.
“This event is a good networking opportunity for members of the business community to meet with Chinese companies in hopes of growing our local marketplace. And our firm is proud to be associated with this trend.” NS