New Sister City Head Seeks Stronger Commercial Links
By Jennifer Miller
The new chairman for Miami-Dade’s Coordinating Council for Sister Cities says he wants to transform the nature of the county’s sister city ties by putting the emphasis on forging commercial ties.
"In the years passed," said Walter A. Loy, chairman of the Coordinating Council, executive vice chairman of global affairs for the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and senior advisor of international affairs for JPoole Associates, "we focused on volunteer work in case of a natural disaster, where cities needed assistance at that moment.
"I think we’ve got to go beyond that and go commercial with the economies that are bouncing back. Where they’re not, maybe we can assist them and help make them stronger."
Appointed council dean and r in April by Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas, Mr. Loy said the job fits his philosophy of associating with cultures overseas and bonding with them.
He said he will push for more alliances but they must be "meaningful." Criteria, Mr. Loy said, include a seaport and airport, and either a population similar to Miami-Dade’s or a strong tourist economy.
While he said his personal focus as chairman will be to work on market-based relationships, he is prepared to execute the mayor’s and council’s goals.
Among upcoming events, Mr. Loy said the mayor is pushing for a trade mission to Africa, possibly in February. He said the organization is also working on forming educational ties with cities and creating an exchange student program.
Former council chairman David Perez-Ginart, a private psychologist, said Mr. Loy has worked with him since 1991, serving as vice chairman.
"His goals are very much in line with the foundations we have laid down in the last nine years," Mr. Perez-Ginart said. "All the relationships created have opened the gateway to the development of commerce ties, specifically in new emerging technologies, in which Greater Miami is becoming an important leader in the hemisphere."
Mr. Ginart said it is important to have new leadership and let other volunteers serve as chairman.
Tony Ojeda, director of the mayor’s office of protocol, international trade & commerce, under which the Sister Cities Program operates, said when Mr. Penelas re-organized his office in ’97, he set out to streamline Sister Cities and bring it in line with the county’s international agenda. He said the mayor wanted to increase trade ties through the program.
"Mr. Loy echoes the mayor’s philosophy. He has a history of international involvement with the chamber of commerce," Mr. Ojeda said. "He is a great diplomat and the perfect man for the job. Through his contacts and expertise, he can give us advise and carry out the mayor’s ambitious agenda."
Officials from Coral Gables’ and Miami’s sister cities operations say although theirs are separate from the county’s program, efforts also center on forming business friendships abroad and conducting student exchange programs, among other endeavors.
Sister Cities was started in 1956 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower as a way US citizens could be involved in diplomacy. Today 1,200 cities have programs and more than 2,000 relationships around the world with cities in the US.