What was a good idea in 1977 with Gresham's formation of its first sister-city relationship with Ebetsu, Japan, remains a good idea in 2011. Thankfully, the members of Gresham's Sister City Association have recognized the importance of these relationships and are working to breathe new life into the organization.
Tightened budgets in recent years all but pushed these sister-city efforts into obscurity, but thanks to persistence and local fundraising, the cross-cultural and cross-global friendships are enjoying something of a revival. Ten exchange students, as well as 10 business and government officials, from Gresham's sister city of Sokcho, South Korea, arrived on Thursday, July 21.
We view these relationships as important to Gresham's future, not just because of the potential for economic development, but perhaps even more importantly for their ability to expose both cities - here and there - to the tasty buffets of cultural differences.
Economically speaking, it's worth remembering that Boyd's Coffee in Gresham set up a coffee house in Ebetsu. And sister-city relationships were largely credited with bringing Fujitsu Microelectronics to Gresham in the 1980s.
It's hard to say that existing relationships will lead to similar investments. But who knows? It's a fair bet that sister-city relationships lead to new business contacts and open doors to new markets and products.
Ultimately, Gresham residents should resist the temptation to separate cultural exchange and financial ambition. They actually go hand-in-hand. How? Getting to know our global neighbors in the short term improves the odds of seeing commercial ventures in the long run.
We are pleased to see that members of Gresham's Sister City Association are still hard at work, continuing the effort that began nearly 35 years ago.