Kennesaw establishes sister cities commission, eyes international partnerships

Kennesaw passed a resolution Monday establishing a Sister Cities Commission aimed at developing a relationship with an international city. Courtesy of Kennesaw

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Kennesaw passed a resolution Monday establishing a Sister Cities Commission aimed at developing a relationship with an international city. Courtesy of Kennesaw

The city of Kennesaw is looking for an overseas partner.

City Council this week passed a resolution to create the Sister Cities Commission that will be tasked with finding and establishing a relationship with an international “sister city.”

Andrew Gasparini, Kennesaw’s assistant city manager, presented the program to council members during a July 26 workshop. He will present bylaws and propose appointments for the commission in a few months. Once the appointees are selected, they will try to find a prospective sister city to present to City Council by next summer.

The program is envisioned to be a two-way connection where Kennesaw would send delegations of local stakeholders to the foreign city. In turn, Kennesaw would welcome delegates, local artists, teachers and other leaders from the sister city to learn about their customs.

Gasparini described it as a three-legged stool, saying Kennesaw could connect with a sister city via education, cultural exchanges and economic opportunities.

City leaders seemed to focus on the potential international business ties. Councilman Pat Ferris asked that at least three of the commissioners appointed to the new commission have a background in economic development.

“The economic part of this is the most important piece to me personally. So of course I want to promote that we have a real clear purpose,” Ferris said during the July work session.

Mayor Derek Easterling agreed that economics should be the primary focus but said he wants a good mix of commissioners so the educational and cultural exchanges aren’t ignored.

“I like the idea of the three-legged stool that he (Gasparini) talked about,” he said. “If you’re just going to focus on the economic, you’re going to miss the other two legs of the stool.”

In 2007, Cobb County formally established a sister city relationship with Seongdong-Gu, a district in Seoul, South Korea. Cobb officials developed relationships with South Korean businesses looking to expand to the United States, and worked to attract them to Georgia.

A delegation of Cobb County business, community and education leaders spent six days in the district in October 2012. Among them was the county’s then-economic development director Michael Hughes, who led the program for the county.

Gasparini said he’s sought counsel from Hughes, who told him some of South Korea’s largest multinational corporations like LG and Kia began making preparations to establish a small presence in Cobb County. Those plans fizzled out when communications dried up with the county, Gasparini told Kennesaw council members.

He said the city’s Sister Cities Commission would focus on keeping communications going to maintain relationships and ensure the program’s longevity.

“It would be tasked with handling any matters pertaining to international collaboration,” he said.