Strengthening relationships abroad

Mayor-led team returns from Asia
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Mayor Bliss is welcomed in South Korea.

Mayor Rosalynn Bliss recently led a 15-member delegation to two of Grand Rapids’ sister cities in Asia. During the trip, Mayor Bliss met with municipal leaders of each community in an effort to build rapport with the cities’ mayors and officials. The purpose of the latest trip to Asia was to strengthen relationships between Grand Rapids and its newest international partner, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea, and its oldest– Ōmihachiman, Japan.

Mayor Rosalyn Bliss gives the 2018 State of the City address.
Mayor Rosalyn Bliss. Grand Rapids Magazine file photo.

“Our entire GR delegation had a wonderful time learning about both of these cities, touring historical sites, visiting with their mayors and city staff and visiting businesses,” Mayor Bliss said. “It was a joy to spend time deepening our ties to their communities and strengthening our relationships. I thank our GR Sister Cities committee members who worked hard on organizing and facilitating the trip.”

The Grand Rapids delegation, which consisted of city leaders and community partners, learned about each community by directly experiencing the culture of each city, visiting local businesses and institutions, and touring historic and cultural sites. The group encouraged tourism, trade, educational, and other opportunities. They also met with potential businesses and investors to support future investment in Grand Rapids.

City Manager Mark Washington, who was part of the delegation, said the oversees trip revealed the value of each Sister City partnership.

New Grand Rapids City Manager Mark Washington, Photo courtesy of City of Austin, 2017.
Grand Rapids City Manager Mark Washington. Courtesy photo.

“While establishing formal partnerships and dialog with these communities through the Sister Cities framework is important, there is something truly special about our personal interaction and direct communication with leaders and officials from Ōmihachiman and Gangnam-gu,” he said. “I valued forming a more robust relationship with our Sister Cities partners. We were able to discuss ways where we can work on common community and economic development issues that both cities share. We also discussed how they address mobility, housing and density concerns. Mayor Bliss and I extended an invitation to their delegations to visit Grand Rapids and look forward to welcoming them here in the future to showcase our community.”

Grand Rapids Sister Cities International is a non-profit organization. The mayor’s travel costs as well as other community partners’ travel costs were arranged by the individual traveler. Other sister cities include Bielsko-Biała, Poland; Ga District, Ghana; Perugia, Italy; and Zapopan, Mexico. GRSCI has “friendship city” status with Dnipro, Ukraine.

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