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Senator, mayor support sister-city plan
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Hinesville could get a hand in China’s economic cookie jar thanks to a new initiative being pushed by state Sen. Judson Hill and supported by Hinesville Mayor Tom Ratcliffe.
With business relationships between Georgia and China growing almost on a daily basis, Hill is proposing the creation of formal partnerships between cities with similar characteristics and economic outlooks to further strengthen financial ties the state and country share.
These “sister-city” affiliations would foster cultural and educational relationships as by-products, but the main focus is “business and economic development,” according to the senator.
Hill conducted a meeting in early October with about 30 coastal region political and business leaders where officials decided Brunswick, Hinesville and Savannah would be the first group to establish sister-city partnerships.
These partnerships will be used as a model to create a regional relationship between the coastal area and an entire Chinese province, which Hill hopes to have in place by the end of the year.
During a recent Hinesville city council meeting, Ratcliffe said Savannah has already received an invitation from a city and it is now Hinesville’s turn to focus on a second site.
Asking for approval from the council to engage in dialogue with leaders from potential sister-cities, the mayor noted Hinesville’s proximity to ports in both Savannah and Brunswick as a key element for Chinese companies looking to move into the American market.
According to statistics from the Georgia Ports Authority, the state’s ports have been instrumental to Georgia and China’s economic relationship. Trade between Savannah and China alone has increased 139 percent in the last five years and in 2006, Chinese imports into Georgia totaled nearly $13 billion.
After receiving unanimous approval from councilmembers to begin talks with Chinese leaders, Ratcliffe, in his final term as mayor, reminded them he would only be starting the work for the next mayor and council to carry on.
“It’s not a matter we will establish formally and likely in this administration,” he said, “but the process will begin and hopefully will establish fairly quickly after the first of the year.”
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