Columbus County has entered into negotiations with Zhaoyuan City, China, to explore the possibility of establishing a sister-city relationship.
You might ask, "Just what is a sister-city?" In 1956, President Eisenhower created Sister Cities International, an organization to promote peace and prosperity by creating bonds between people from different cities around the world. By becoming friends, President Eisenhower reasoned that people of different cultures could celebrate and appreciate their differences, instead of deriding them, fostering suspicion and sowing new seeds for war.
Sister Cities International creates relationships based on cultural, educational, information and trade exchanges, creating lifelong friendships that provide prosperity and peace through person-to-person “citizen diplomacy.” Since then, Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush and now President Barack Obama have served as the Honorary Chairman of Sister Cities International.
In short, the mission of Sister Cities International is "to promote peace through mutual respect, understanding, & cooperation — one individual, one community at a time."
Why Zhaoyuan City?
In March 2012, Economic Development Director Gary Lanier attended the expansion celebration of the Yountai Baolong Komas Chateau winery, a partner for the winery planning to locate in Columbus County. During this trip, Dr. Lanier made several connections that he hopes will be beneficial to the county and economic development efforts here. One such connection came from officials in the city of Zhaoyuan who expressed interest in establishing a sister-city or sister-county relationship.
So, in July 2012, a delegation from Zhaoyuan City came to Columbus County for two days to explore the area, to meet with county officials and business owners, and to assess the potential for establishing business partnerships. Their visit to Columbus County culminated at Lake Waccamaw with a boat ride and an old-fashioned, southern pig-pickin' attended by Senator Michael Walters, Representative Dewey Hill, Representative G.L. Pridgen, Columbus County Board of Commissioners' Chairman Amon McKenzie, Commissioner Ricky Bullard, Commissioner James Prevatte, Commissioner Edwin Russ, Commissioner Charles McDowell, Commissioner Buddy Byrd, County Manager Bill Clark, and a number of other local and county officials. In addition, several local artisans who hand-crafted some of the gifts presented to Mayor Wang and his delegation attended the event. (photos)
To continue the process of exploring a sister-city relationship, a delegation from Columbus County visited Zhaoyuan City in May 2013. Accompanying Economic Development Director Gary Lanier were Columbus County Board of Commissioners Chairman Charles McDowell, Commissioner Edwin Russ, Commissioner Buddy Byrd, and Jim Barker, President of Oak-Bark Corporation. The Columbus County delegation toured several businesses while in China and forged a number of friendships and business relationships. (photos)
Another delegation from Zhaoyuan City visited Columbus County in the spring of 2014. The Columbus County Economic Development Commission and Board of Commissioners hosted a dinner on Monday night, March 31, at the Southern Kitchen in downtown Whiteville. Among those in attendance were Kara Spencer, Economic Development Director and Special Projects Coordinator for US Congressman Mike McIntyre; NC Senator Michael Walters; and NC Representative Ken Waddell. On Tuesday, April 1, Economic Development Director Gary Lanier took the delegation on a tour of the new training center at Black's Tire Service, MaXPro Window Films, and the micropropagation lab at Southeastern Community College. Following a boat ride and lunch at Mr. Johnny's cabin at Lake Waccamaw, the delegates accompanied Dr. Lanier and Commissioners Edwin Russ and Trent Burroughs on a tour of West Fraser and the NC Ports at Wilmington. (photos)