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Groton, New London become sister cities with Kingston, Jamaica

Mystic — Groton and New London have become sister cities with Kingston, Jamaica, a move that officials hope will foster cultural, economic and educational exchanges among the communities.

The mayors of the town and city of Groton, New London and Kingston signed a memorandum of understanding during a ceremony Tuesday afternoon outside the Mystic Museum of Art along the Mystic River, as officials from the communities applauded.

Groton Town Mayor Patrice Granatosky said the agreement promotes a cultural exchange and carries the potential for economic growth for the municipalities and Jamaica.

Groton City Mayor Keith Hedrick said the agreement represents a "declaration of friendship" that is "a start to good things in the future."

"We look forward to being able to work with you through culture, technology, tourism, trade — anything that we can do that will benefit southeastern Connecticut and also Jamaica," he said.

A delegation from Kingston visited Groton and New London in December 2019 to explore a sister city relationship. New London and Groton officials had extended the invitation in the hope of fostering trade and economic development, technology-sharing for companies, and cultural and educational exchanges.

But plans to move forward with becoming sister cities were put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kingston Mayor Delroy Williams said the delegation is returning in a new environment, as the pandemic "has been affecting all of us" and everyone has been coping and finding ways to deal with it. He said the officials are visiting the region again to show their commitment to building the sister city relationship.

He added that "the potential is limitless."

New London Mayor Michael Passero also noted that it's been nearly two years since the officials celebrated the beginning of the new partnership and the possibilities — whether political, cultural or economic — that it can bring.

"We look forward to achieving all of those potentials," he said. "I'm just happy to be here with you and happy to be able to start to develop this great relationship."

Alsion Wilson, consul general from Jamaica to New York, said she took the opportunity while on business travel in Kingston about three weeks ago to meet with the mayor and ask him if they could cement and finalize the agreement so the communities can move forward with the partnership now that travel restrictions have been lifted.

She called the signing of the agreement "historic" and said she is looking forward to exchanges between the communities, from educational programs to the health industry. She said she also would like to have discussions about how to move goods between the ports of Kingston and New London.

Robert Hill, chief executive officer of Kingston, said the agreement was signed as "a living document to the longstanding, sustainable and unbreakable commitment" among the communities.

The agreement states the communities will strive toward the following goals:

  • "To promote and expand the effective and mutually beneficial cooperation between the people of Groton-New London and Kingston"
  • "To promote international goodwill, understanding and expanded business relations between the municipalities and their respective region by the exchange of people, ideas and information in a wide variety of economic, social, cultural, municipal, environmental, professional, technical, youth and other endeavors"
  • "To foster and encourage cultural, scientific, trade and commerce, literacy and educational activities between the cities."

The officials exchanged gifts during the ceremony. Groton officials offered a basket of goods from local businesses, Eastern Point Beach hats and Groton coins, and New London officials gave New London coins and paperweights. The Jamaican delegation gave coffee and rum to the southeastern Connecticut mayors.

Leslie Campbell, minister of state in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Jamaica, extended an invitation for the southeastern Connecticut officials to visit Kingston.

George Mathanool, who serves on the Groton Economic Development Commission, pointed to Jamaican athletes' phenomenal performance in the Olympics and said it shows the country's effervescence.

"We are lucky to establish this initial foothold and collaboration between Kingston and the Groton and New London communities," he said.

Groton Town Manager John Burt said the hope is that the agreement will help promote the communities' respective assets and international goodwill and "foster cultural, economic and scientific trade."

He added that the agreement shows the importance of the Groton-New London region "as it becomes more recognizable on the world stage."

k.drelich@theday.com

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