MORGANTOWN — Located about 400 miles south of Beijing in China’s Quanshan District, the city of Xuzhou is an urban center with a population of 3.4 million people, strong education and mining sectors and a growing relationship with Morgantown.
A delegation from Xuzhou traveled more than 7,200 miles this past week to further that bond, which began with a “Friendship City” agreement in 2012.
Morgantown and Xuzhou have been Sister Cities since 2016.
George Lies, chairman of Morgantown’s Sister Cities Commission, said the recent visit focused on turning reclaimed coal sites into economic development. Last year, a different delegation was in town from Xuzhou, looking at farms, schools and medical infrastructure.
“We showed them mainly private sector development based on reclaimed or unused industrial land,” Lies said, explaining that the group looked at the development in and around the University Town Centre, the Morgantown Industrial Park and Mylan Park, among other areas.
“The idea was to show them not only the technical aspect of coal reclamation, but what they’re really interested in is the economic development that can come from that,” Lies said. “So we tried to emphasize what’s happening here, the progress that’s been made in the city and the county.”
Lies said presenters included Glen Adrian (Morgantown Industrial Park), Holly Childs (West Ridge development) and Mark Nesselroad (Mylan Park).
Morgantown Mayor Bill Kawecki said the guests were also very interested in the rehabilitation and development of brownfield land, or land contaminated by industry. Patrick Kirby, director of the Northern West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center, was also among the presenters.
Though a world apart, the cities share not only a mining heritage but a common thread of higher education that is a major component of their sisterly connection. WVU has ongoing agreements with the China University of Mining and Technology, a school of about 33,600 students located in Xuzhou.
Looking forward, Lies said there are discussions about a delegation from Morgantown visiting Xuzhou. He explained that an invitation has been extended to Kawecki to that end. He went on to say that be believes there is room for the relationship to extend further.
“In my view, I think there’s room for business-to-business exchange here,” Lies said, noting the sister cities commission is looking at ways to make it happen. “That’s what we try to do, promote Morgantown as a city that’s international.”
According to Kawecki, the Chinese delegation was very interested in what it could learn from its much smaller sister in West Virginia.
“It was very well done and very much appreciated,” he said.