When Chen Mingxu was a boy, U.S. businessmen poured into rural China, welcomed with tax breaks and steamed turtle. Thirty years later, in a kind of reverse migration, Chen finds himself in southwestern Alabama smiling wanly over bacon-wrapped meatloaf and banana pudding.

Chen, who employs about 200 locals, manages the first U.S. factory built by Golden Dragon Precise Copper Tube Group Inc. with a $120 million investment in Wilcox County, one of the poorest counties in Alabama. The state coughed up around $20 million, outbidding dozens of other cities and states hoping for the jobs and investments.

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