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Cape readies for visit from ‘sister city’ delegates

Four from Baise, China to tour city in February

January 10, 2019
Pine Island Eagle

As with an new relationship, Nita Whaley says forming a bond with Cape Coral's sister city in Baise, China, will take some work.

"I feel like it will take time," said the chair of the delegation's formal welcome committee. "But in the end, it will be a great relationship."

Four high-level delegates from the Baise Municipality Guangxi Zhuang will visit Cape Coral for the first time next month.

City Council on Monday allocated $10,000 for the visit.

Whaley says she hopes the relationship builds business interests and investments and, hopefully, increases tourism.

"They'll see the beaches," she said. "The water and the city."

"They are coming here to look for investment opportunities and we'll introduce them to local businesses."

Coming from a town in Indiana with 10 sister cities, Whaley says she is excited to learn about the culture and establish a possible connection.

Delegates from Cape Coral plan to visit Baise as well, with a team of perhaps six city officials, plus pay-their-own-way business partners, to go in April or May.

"We are building this for a long-term relationship," Whaley said.

Baise delegates will visit Cape Coral from Feb. 24-27. They will tour local businesses and engage with city officials and learn more about the city that in 2017, Forbes Magazine dubbed the fastest-growing municipality in America.

Cape Coral's Economic Development Office is coordinating the visit with the local business community through the creation of a formal welcome committee. A news release says welcome committee members include representatives from key sectors in the community such as education, healthcare and private sector businesses.

The goal is to showcase the best of Cape Coral, offer key business and educational tours, while still allowing time for quality cultural and business discussions.

"This visit is the beginning of a business and cultural exchange that will ultimately benefit both Cape Coral and Baise," said Mayor Joe Coviello. "We are honored to host these delegates and look forward to showing them what makes Cape Coral a great place to live, work and invest."

Whaley envisions multiple visits between the two parties once a relationship is established.

The committee has been conducting planning sessions since early November. Preparations began moving into high gear after the delegates accepted the city's formal invitation.

Planned tours include the Cape Coral Hospital, the city's charter school system and Ecological Laboratories, which currently has a manufacturing facility in China.

Whaley says the delegation was very interested in the city's health care system since many students from China visit Southwest Florida to earn their college degree and participate in student exchange programs.

They were also eager to learn more about charter schools, she said.

"They don't have a lot of charter schools in China," Whaley said. "They are very interested in how the charter school system works."

Since Ecological Laboratories has a building in China and employees from China, it seemed like a natural choice for the delegation to visit the company. Whaley said the delegation is also interested in learning more from Ecological Laboratories about purification and pollution.

Baise and Cape Coral may not appear to have much in common at first. Baise is over 20 times the size of Cape Coral with 12 counties and 135 townships. However, the two cities share similar climates and are both a hub for tourism.

Like Southwest Florida, Whaley says they are also known for their mangoes.

Local business owner, JoAnne Killion, helped make the sister city arrangement possible. Killion, who also provides educational student exchange programs, initiated the plan to find a sister city in China more than two years ago.

"The opportunities for both countries are so strong," Killion said in a news release. "The future could hold cultural, student, and medical exchanges as well as enriching business and commerce ventures. I am very excited to see this come to fruition."



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