After more than two-decades of infrastructure development, information technology, environmental friendly industries and tourism, Yilan welcomes more intellectuals and high-tech workers to reside here, said Magistrate Liu Shou-cheng (劉守成) in an interview with Taiwan News Wednesday.
Having been magistrate for eight years, Liu said that "the county has gotten rid of an old image as a backward region in the northeast due to the efforts of previous magistrate over past two decades." Liu stepped down yesterday as Lu Kuo-hua was set to assume power today after winning the December 3 elections.
According to Liu, after having three consecutive Democratic Progressive Party magistrates - Yu Shyi-kun (游錫堃), Chen Ding-nan (陳定南) and incumbent Liu over the past 24 years, Yilan underwent a metamorphosis from a farming county where most young adults were forced to leave in order to make a better living, to becoming one of the few areas in the country with less pollution where cultural and tourism industries are thriving.
Currently Yilan hosts international festivals for children, international collegiate invitational regatta and the "Green Expo" every year and is attracting millions of tourists from Taiwan as well as overseas.
Yilan's success in hosting cultural events is impressive and Liu said the county could cooperate with Hualien and Taitung counties to further expand its tourism industry.
Liu said that the difference of life in Yilan between now and eight years ago reveals how much improvement as been made in high-tech industries and transportation.
During his years as magistrate, the 54-year-old native Yilan once said his vision for the county was that it would be a less-industrialized region which preserved nature with uncontaminated ecology where people would want to live when they are no longer bound to a fixed working place.
During the interview Wednesday, Liu elaborated on what his county has achieved during the previous eight years. He also offered several suggestions to the successor "if it may be helpful," Liu added humbly.
Taiwan News: What have you achieved over the past eight years to modernize Yilan?
Liu: Over the past eight years, developments of high technology industry and transportation facilities have brought Yilan people most significant changes of life, partly owing to the great assistance of former Premier Yu Shyi-kun, who is also a native Yilan. I don't think that anyone could predict the large difference between today and before eight years ago when it comes to the county's profound improvement of living environment and traveling convenience.
In previous years we have achieved respectable advancement in improving traffic infrastructure, developing software and telecommunication facilities to modernize business and living environment when the county government also worked hard to lure domestic universities to set up their branches in Yilan.
Developing Yilan to be a "university city" is our consistent goal since we regard it as one of the best solutions to stop more local people migrating to other areas of Taiwan to make more money. If the goal is realized, local residents will be able to run business and make a better living in hometown. These people's stay in hometown would hopefully further the development of traditional cultures.
As for how far we have realized the goal to make Yilan to be an "university city," there are already three universities - Taipei-based Tamkang University, Hsinchu-based National Tsinghua University and National Yangming University currently situating in Taipei City considering setting a branch campus, high-tech park or a medical center in Yilan after recognizing the county's development of modern technology and traveling convenience.
Taiwan News: What do you think whether Yilan has accomplished your vision of being the most attractive region of Taiwan for living now? Is there anything to be improved by your successor to reach the goal?
Liu: I take our efforts over the past eight years as preparation and founding the base for Yilan to be an attractive place for living. In regard to traveling convenience, the project of Taipei-Yilan Freeway would profoundly shorten the time and space of the county's residents to other cities, especially Taipei. For entertainment, Yilan runs more than 30 museums, owns several farms and high-class resorts such as Hotel Royal Chiao Hsi Spa and the Ambassador Hotel to offer people places going for an outing on holidays.
Many people have witnessed Yilan's significant modernization in recent years when they came to Yilan and saw its development in various fields; the market price of local real estate indicates a similar trend, too.
After a series of regular festivals held by the county, such as the yearly folklore and folkgame festivals for children and the collegiate invitational regatta, have established international reputations, I would suggest that local government should work to maintain the events' quality and distinguishing feature, while it is also necessary for the host to put new ideas to refresh these activities for attracting more visitors.
To further boost its tourism industry, Yilan can explore the possibility of cooperating with neighboring counties Hualien and Taitung to promote tourism of eastern coast, which hosts a variety of beautiful flora and fauna.
Local authorities should also pay attention to problems that may generate after the Taipei-Yilan Freeway start operation. In addition, a magistrate might better to pay heed to maintaining public order, when Yilan expects to accommodate more people as a result of business and industrial modernization.