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Homer, Alaska, Welcomes Open World Delegates From Russia
October 14, 2003

For Immediate Release
PR: 03-031

Economic Development-Themed Visit Involves Local Business and Political Leaders, Strengthens Homer/Yelizovo Sister-City Relationship

Washington, DC Ė Officials and entrepreneurs from Homerís Russian sister city of Yelizovo (Kamchatka) are spending October 10-17 examining economic development in Homer, Soldotna, and Kenai on the Open World Program. Open World is managed by the Open World Leadership Center, an independent federal agency located at the Library of Congress. The program builds mutual understanding between the United States and the Russian Federation by enabling the new generation of Russian leaders to experience American democratic and free enterprise practices and exchange views with their American counterparts. Sen. Ted Stevens (AK), the chief congressional architect of the Open World Program, serves as honorary chair of the Open World Leadership Centerís board of trustees.

The 10-person delegation visiting Alaska includes Yelena Avramenko, General Director of the Dilizhans travel agency; Yelena Biryukova, Senior Customs Officer, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky City Airport; Timofey Dakhno, Head of the Kronotsky State Biosphere Natural Park, South-Kamchatka State Reserve; Radmir Korenev, Director, Nalychevo National Park; Dmitriy Mamchenkov, Director of the Kamchatka Waters company; Aleksandr Meshcheryakov, Director of the Kamchatka Region Center for Technical Informationís Yelizovo branch; Yelena Solovyeva, General Director of the Illusion music store chain; and Igor Sorokin, Director of the Yelizovo branch of the Dialog-Point manufacturing and consulting company. Yevgeniy Gribov, a legal consultant from St. Petersburg, and Vyacheslav Buzhinskiy of the Kursk State Pedagogical University faculty are accompanying the group as facilitators.

Homer Finance Director Dean Baugh and attorneys Jim Hornaday and Steve Yoshida kicked off the program Oct. 11 with a briefing on state and local government and their interaction with the nonprofit sector, which was followed by an opening reception hosted by the Homer Rotary Club. An Oct. 13 visit to the Homer Chamber of Commerce focused on networking and the role of business associations in economic development. The Russians also toured the harbor and other city facilities with directors from each city department; attended a reception at City Hall hosted by Mayor Jack Cushing; and sat in on a City Council meeting.

In Soldotna (Oct. 14), the delegates have taken part in a workshop on small business start-up led by the director of the Small Business Development Center; toured the Challenger Center; and attended a Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting as guests of Mayor Dale Bagley. Tourism promotion will be the focus of discussions with the Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council Round Table in Kenai on Oct. 15. After a working lunch that day with the Kenai Chamber of Commerce, the delegates will make a side-trip to Nikolaevsk to visit its small businesses and Russian community.

In a special highlight, on Oct. 16 delegates will experience firsthand how their American counterparts work by spending a half-day interning at companies and organizations that match their own workplaces and professional interests. Following their internships and lunch at the Homer Rotary Club, the delegates will tour several businesses and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Center.

Home stays with local residents have enabled the participants to take part in American family activities and to develop personal as well as professional ties during their visit. The Russians are already planning to reciprocate their host familiesí hospitality by preparing a Russian dinner for them. As Sen. Stevens, who has met with many Open World participants in both Alaska and Washington, recently noted, ďThe friendships and relationships between Russia and the U.S. created by Open World will prove stronger than any short term disagreement between our two countries on global issues.Ē

Rachel Livingston of the Homer city government and Steve Yoshida, President of the Homer Sister City Association, have organized the Russiansí study trip for Open World. Their national partner, the Academy for Educational Development (AED), received a grant from the Open World Leadership Center to administer this and similar exchanges in 2003. AED is an independent nonprofit organization with expertise in education, research, training, policy analysis, and innovative program design and management. American Councils for International Education: ACTR/ACCELS is handling the tripís logistics.

The Open World Program is a unique, nonpartisan initiative of the U.S. Congress. Over 7,000 Open World participants from all 89 Russian regions have been hosted in all 50 U.S. states since the programís inception in 1999. Delegates range from members of the Russian parliament to mayors, from innovative nonprofit directors to experienced journalists, and from political party activists to regional administrators. In addition to its economic development theme, Open World sponsors visits focused on rule of law, education reform, the environment, federalism, health, women as leaders, and youth issues.

For more information, contact Katya Sedova at 202-466-6210 or Rachel Livingston at 907-399-4577.