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Cranbrook mayor reflects on Asian trip

Both Taicang, China, and Wonju, Korea, wish to explore and develop opportunities through formal relationships with Cranbrook.

In Thursday's Daily Townsman, Cranbrook City Councillor Coun. Diana J. Scott discussed her excitement about a recent trip to China and Korea to foster economic ties.

On Friday, Mayor Wayne Stetski gave his thoughts to the Townsman on the trip and how meeting with dignitaries from Taicang, China, and Wonju, Korea will be a benefit to Cranbrook.

Mayor Stetski said the reception from both cities was outstanding, and that both wish to explore and develop opportunities through formal relationships with Cranbrook.

Both cities are significantly larger than Cranbrook — with Taicang having a population of roughly 480,000 permanent residents and 320,000 temporary workers, and Wonju having a population of 330,000.

The first stop was Taicang, the delegates had discussions with port administration regarding trade, especially of natural resources. Representatives of Teck and Canfor Forest Products travelled from Beijing and Shanghai offices to participate in the meetings, as well as John MacDonald, who is Managing Director for BC's International Trade and Investment based in Shanghai.

Stetski said at the port there were a lot of raw logs from B.C., as well as lumber, and Teck ships a lot of coal to China. He said they Taicang is expanding the port and so it is a good time to foster ties.

“It was a good opportunity for Canfor and Teck to expand their contacts in Taicang using our delegation as the rationale,” Stetski said.

Taicang has a business incubator for new Enterprise technologies, and is building a large new business and technology complex .

Stetski said a technology incubator is something he would like to see pursued in Cranbrook.

“They work out of a subsidized building complex until the businesses become viable on their own, then they move out and establish a permanent site elsewhere,” he said. “It helps new businesses get going.”

They toured Chien-Shiung Institute of Technology and discussed opportunities to develop a formal relationship with College of the Rockies.

The College of the Rockies noted that each international student brings an estimated $16,000 in direct benefits to Cranbrook and the college.

In Wonju, South Korea, the delegates discussed areas of interest in tourism development, opportunities for business investment, and post-secondary education partnerships.

The mayor and delegates also toured the Agricultural Technical Centre to learn more about Wonju’s intensive agriculture sector. Wonju will also play a role in South Korea’s hosting of the 2018 Winter Olympics and are interested in Canadian investment.

The first thing Stetski noticed on the two hour drive from Seoul to Wonju is the prevalence of gardens.

“There are gardens everywhere lining the highway,” he said. “Pretty much 95 per cent of the undeveloped land adjacent to the highways and in cities are covered in vegetable gardens.”

In the hotel they stayed in downtown Wonju, the area adjacent to the hotel is all vegetable gardens. He noted that this is downtown in a city of more than 300,000.

Stetski said one of the reasons for the abundance of gardens and farming is that there is a lot of direct support from government for the farmers.

“We’re starting to encourage more locally grown food with the farmer’s market and new community garden, but when you look at what can be done to help people really get into growing their own vegetable and growing enough for export we have a considerable way to go,” he said, adding that there is so much more we could be doing here to support farmers. “That was a real learning experience. The RDEK’s agriculture plan is going to make some recommendations of how governments can help in a number of ways, for farmers to be more successful.”

On the tourism side of things, Stetski said he hopes to see tourism wholesalers bringing people here from Wonju and Taicang in the future. To do that, he said we need to have tourism packages to offer, like those in other places around the world.

“We have some homework to do around the tourism side, but we have contacts that I think can be very useful in the future,” he said.

Wonju is on the way to becoming a “friendly city” with Cranbrook, while Taicang already is. A friendly city is a ranked just below a sister city in terms of international municipal relationships.

Stetski said the travel cost for him to China and South Korea was $2,705.

“Our time in China and South Korea certainly strengthened the personal and professional relationships between Cranbrook and the cities of Wonju and Taicang,” he added. “It is now up to all of us to build on those relationships to ensure that they enrich our cultures and our economies in the future.”