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Forest Grove Sister Cities Committee is looking to Latin America; Cornelius interested in joining in, too.

COURTESY PHOTO: FOREST GROVE SISTER CITIES COMMITTEE - Students from Nyuzen, Japan, try out their firefighting skills during a visit to Forest Grove in 2017. Currently, the city is looking at whether to pursue a business relationship with a Latin American country.The Forest Grove Sister Cities Committee recently discussed the possibility of forming a business relationship with a Latin American city.

"In our last meeting in March we began a discussion to form a business relationship with a (Latin American) city," Larisa Nefedov, chair of the committee, wrote in an email. "Every member of the committee was on board with it. In the last meeting, members were asked to look into possible (Latin American) cities, perhaps connect with the school district and members in the community."

The committee didn't discuss the type of businesses they would consider and no specific Latin American countries came up as possible considerations, officials say.

"The message at this point is that there is strong interest among the committee and we will be discussing next steps at our next meeting," said Tim Rippe, a committee member and city councilor.

The next meeting is scheduled for April 29.

In 1988, the Sister Cities Committee was founded to bring about an "understanding and sense of mutual interest and purpose among the peoples of Forest Grove and similar cities of foreign nations," according to the city's website.

In the late '80s, Forest Grove formed an exchange with Nyuzen, Japan. Since then, the two cities have exchanged visits between residents and dignitaries of the two cities over the years. However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, no exchange visits have occurred recently, according to Anna Ruggles, Forest Grove city recorder.

The Nyuzen Student Delegation exchange usually occurs in the fall of each year with the adult delegation exchange set for every other year.

Meanwhile, in November, both the cities of Forest Grove and Cornelius, along with the Forest Grove/Cornelius Chamber of Commerce, signed a memorandum of understanding, outlining a framework for joint future sister city relationships. Since then, Cornelius officials have shown interest in joining with Forest Grove for the possible business relationship with a Latin American city. COURTESY PHOTO: FOREST GROVE SISTER CITIES COMMITTEE - Young people from Nyuzen, Japan, pose with a statue during a visit to Forest Grove in 2017.

Any sister city relationship would have to be approved seperately by the respective city councils, officials say.

Cornelius City Manager Rob Drake said his city was approached by Forest Grove City Council President Tim Rippe about a joint sister city relationship.

"We would get involved cautiously, but we thought it might make the relationship stronger if both cities were involved and could provide a strong partnership to take full advantage of the exchange for both communities," Drake wrote in an email. Drake, the former mayor of Beaverton, said he's well familiar with sister city relationships. Beaverton now has five sister cities.

In March 2020, Sandy Garcia, a longtime volunteer and president of the Forest Grove Sister Cities Committee, died after serving on the committee for 20 years. She had participated in the sister city exchange with Nyuzen for almost 30 years.

Nefedov was elected to head the committee last year. She said she has been enjoying her time leading the organization.

Nefedov has traveled to Nyuzen twice herself — once in 2015, then again in 2017.

"It was an incredible experience," she said.

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