GR delegation returns from visit to first and latest Sister Cities

Published on July 06, 2023


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss has returned from a visit to Grand Rapids’ first Sister City – Ōmihachiman in Shiga Prefecture, Japan and latest Sister City ­– Gangnam-gu in Seoul, South Korea. She headed a 15-member delegation of Grand Rapids Sister Cities International, City leaders and community partners on the Asian trip to strengthen the Sister City relationships between Grand Rapids and its newest and oldest international partners.

During the trip, Mayor Bliss met with municipal leaders of each community, building rapport among mayors and officials. The Grand Rapids delegation 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.

“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.”

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

“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 (GRSCI) is a 501(c)(3), non-profit organization whose mission is to build relationships between Grand Rapids and its sister cities by promoting understanding and mutual respect through exchanges in culture, art, education, and community and economic development. Mayoral, GRSCI, and community partner travel costs were fundraised or otherwise arranged by the individual traveler.

Grand Rapids is a proud Sister Cities International partner of Sister Cities Bielsko-Biała, Poland; Ga District, Ghana; Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea; Ōmihachiman, Japan; Perugia, Italy; and Zapopan, Mexico. GRSCI also has established a “friendship city status” with Dnipro, Ukraine.

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