Benefits Realization by Roller Coaster

By Roger Chou, PgMP

In 2011, a new landmark emerged in southern Taiwan: the E-DA Theme Park. Even today, few know that it was the outcome of a massive town regeneration program. Or that its main backer was one of the most successful companies in the Asian business world: Taiwan-based Yieh United Steel Corp. (YUSCO). The E-DA Theme Park — and the many development groups behind it — was an initiative proposed by YUSCO’s founder, I-Shou Lin. Mr. Lin committed YUSCO to this venture because of his desire to transform a decaying city: Kaohsiung.
Fifteen years ago, Kaohsiung was an industrial center and a major harbor for southern Asia. But in the intervening time, stagnation had set in. The price of land and levels of pay kept falling. And as decline became a long-term trend, the city started losing its population. Mr. Lin thought tourism could regenerate the city. And, as the biggest company in the city, he felt YUSCO had a duty to help.

Thirty years ago, Mr. Lin bought land on the nearby Guan Yi Mountain. He purchased it not for a short-term commercial plan, but as a long-term investment. And E-DA Theme Park was just the investment to build on the land. To help him realize this ambition, Mr. Lin found a program manager, Chi-Hwa Yang, who had been very successful in retail, restaurants and construction. After visiting and studying different kinds of tourist centers across the world, Mr. Yang formulated a strategy. To make the best use of the remote and enclosed mountain landscape without disturbing the existing economy of the city, Mr. Yang calculated that two tourist attractions, a theme park and a shopping mall, would fulfill Mr. Lin’s vision. The shopping mall would bring in major brand outlets and customers, while links to the theme park and shopping mall would be through the nearby international airport and the existing transportation infrastructure. Tourists drawn to the theme park and the shopping mall would have to use Kaoshiung’s hotels, restaurants and other local businesses, safeguarding existing jobs and creating new ones.

Due to the limited land available, about 3.7 hectares (9 acres), Mr. Yang folded most of the 50 theme park attractions into several buildings, which allowed the creation of a controlled, comfortable environment for tourists despite the often-scorching sun of southern Taiwan. Mr. Yang also thought the theme part needed something distinctive and decided on a Ferris wheel — but where it was situated was as important as the iconic attraction. The Ferris wheel was placed directly in front of the hotel, so tourists and hotel visitors could clearly see each other. This initially sparked controversy over lack of privacy for hotel visitors — but Mr. Yang solved the problem by limiting the wheel operation to the daytime and installing “blackout” curtains for the hotel rooms facing the ride. It worked. When the theme park opened in 2009, the Ferris wheel’s glorious, iconic image helped attract a large number of visitors and investors. 


The Ferris wheel was just one of many decisions that Mr. Yang made the right choice on. For the past three years, many business outlets at the theme park have experienced massive growth. The park is also very popular, getting packed to capacity during holidays. This has meant the hotel occupation rate across Kaohsiung has risen to new levels. And across the city, businesses were not adversely impacted by the new development. Following Mr. Lin’s vision, Mr. Yang’s out-of-the-way development meant the E-DA Theme Park didn’t draw customers away from the city — rather, it became a destination for tourism, with the city as its base. Furthermore, the rise in tourism boosted local businesses and led to an increase in local property prices and new development.
The success of the development groups backed by Mr. Lin and guided by Mr. Yang is a mark of excellent program management. It is also an example of the long-term, wide-scale benefits that when, handled professionally, program management can deliver. Who says business and social responsibility are mutually exclusive?
Have you worked on a project where program management benefited social needs and business objectives?

The views expressed within the PMI Voices on Project Management blog are contributed from external sources and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of PMI.

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