In an effort to strengthen ties and discuss future possibilities, delegates from China visited Wilsonart International Wednesday.

The visit is the latest focus of Wilsonart as the company continues to develop a number of investments in the country.

The group included seven representatives from the Qingpu District -- an industrial development and investment zone located near Shanghai.

Last year Wilsonart, maker of decorative laminates, was one of the first major corporations to open a facility in the district.

In Temple, the representatives were given a tour of the company's manufacturing sites and their first experience with Texas culture.

From beginning to end, the delegates observed how large rolls of decorative and craft paper are chemically treated, layered and put through a technical process that produces the company's laminate products on a daily basis.

"The delegates were vital in helping Wilsonart get established in their industrial district, and this is the first time that they have seen the full process and the capabilities of the plant," said Dennis Galli, vice president of international sales.

Galli said manufacturing in the 100,000-square-foot facility in the Qingpu District is limited. The plant is supplemented with products shipped from the Temple facilities. Sales in China have reached $25 million annually and are expected to grow.

During the tour, a company tour guide fielded numerous questions about the Temple plant, the products and how they're made.

Because they're inexpensive and versatile, laminate products are considered ideal for China, said Galli. Over the years, changes in government have fueled rapid growth in the residential and office furniture markets there.

In 1996, Wilsonart initially tapped into the market with a small sales office.

"Wilsonart has grown quickly," said Dave Humiston, director of international operations. "We started with the office (in China), then a warehouse and now we have a full factory. This was only possible with the strong support of local and regional Chinese government officials."

As the day progressed, the delegates and company officials found they had a common ground when it came to ideas on company culture, investing in employees and even family values during a Texas-style lunch of barbecue.

After the tour, Zhong Yan Qun, director of the Qingpu District, made her observation about Wilsonart.

"Wilsonart leads in the laminates industry and that made an impression," she said through a translator.

"They did a very good job in Qingpu and have a good relationship with our government. We see a lot of opportunity to grow and expand the company."

Currently, the Shanghai plant serves customers in China and other parts of northern Asia.

The delegates concluded their visit to the city with a dinner at Wildflower Country Club with city officials such as Mayor Keifer Marshall Jr. and Chamber of Commerce President Ken Higdon.

Wilsonart International is headquartered in Temple and has more than 25 facilities worldwide.