Thursday, June 13, 2002

Blue Ash steps up sister city link

By Susan Vela,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        BLUE ASH — They've been through the first ecstatic throes of an international relationship — the trans-Atlantic calls, the exuberant visits to each other's shores.

        Now this city, one of Cincinnati's wealthier suburbs, and Ilmenau, Germany, once ruled by Communists, are settling into the grooves of a long-term relationship.

        Tonight, council members will formally authorize Blue Ash Sister City Inc., a 12-member committee of residents, teachers and business representatives, to guide the sister-city relationship.

        The move will leave city officials to become strictly advisers in a still-budding relationship intended to foment deeper cultural understanding and a rich exchange of business, education and artistic ideas.

        “This citizens committee will be the forum to run the sister-city program. We want it to be citizen driven,” City Manager Marvin Thompson said.

        Virgil Reed, who works in Blue Ash as president of Time Warner's cable system, will be committee chairman and is eager to take the reins. The committee, he said, will meet about four times a year. They are starting to plan for an August visit of Ilmenau business leaders.

        “We're really just in the earliest stages of the work that we'll be doing over a long period of time,” Mr. Reed said. “At this point, we are very optimistic about where things will go. Our intent is so that we can learn from them and they can learn from us over a long period of time.”

        Before an audience of more than 100 well-wishers, Blue Ash and Ilmenau officials formalized their sister city agreement April 29 in an Ilmenau fire station.

        It was the culmination of two years of work. In that time, Sycamore High School students have traveled to Ilmenau to hang out with high school students there, and Blue Ash police officers have experienced their German colleagues' daily routine.

        Blue Ash-based Metalex, a high-tech machinery manufacturer, already has invited an Ilmenau engineer to work at the company.

        “I am ready to declare victory in the first phase of the relationship,” Mayor Rick Bryan said. But, “we still have a lot of heavy lifting to do. It's time now to turn it over to a private group, and that's Blue Ash Sister City Inc.”


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