Strengthening the Minot-Skien connection

Minot’s sister city relationship with Skien, Norway, has been an important international cultural and business connection for both cities for nearly 40 years. City Manager Tom Barry, the City Council, and I all felt it was necessary to visit Skien to strengthen the ties that bind our two cities.

Prior to our trip from May 13-25, we identified several goals and objectives, including:

–Cultural exchange

–Business development

–Recycling/green energy programs

–Community and planning discussions

In our short but busy time in Norway, we spent time working on all of those topics, and much more.

Culture remains very important to our friends in Norway. Since the sister city relationship between Minot and Skien began in 1981, hundreds of residents from Skien have traveled to Minot to not only attend Norsk Hostfest, but to visit Minot and the surrounding region. Unfortunately, in recent years, our friends and partners felt our relationship was a bit one-sided, since it’s been a few years since Minot has sent a contingent to Norway. I’m happy Tom and I could be part of strengthening Minot’s commitment to the Minot-Skien relationship, and the City of Minot remains resolute in holding up our end of the agreement in the future.

While the Minot-Skien agreement is a sister city relationship, it’s become something much more than that. In reality, it’s a relationship between the residents of two different cities who have much in common, and who share a deep-seated love for their communities.

We experienced that community pride first-hand during our trip, notably with the magnificent parade as part of Constitution Day. What an awesome sight it was, with thousands of residents lining the streets in a show of national pride. Skien Mayor Hedda Foss Five is proud of her city, with its deep cultural roots that have grown into a vibrant, artistic community. Sounds a lot like Minot, doesn’t it?

Skien residents also have a healthy respect for the United States military and the role the U.S. played in assisting Norway during World War II. I can’t tell you how many people told Tom and I “Thank you” during our visit. They remain profoundly thankful nearly 75 years later, and truly appreciate what our armed forces did for their country and others. Again, that respect for the military sounds a lot like Minot, doesn’t it?

But culture wasn’t the only reason we were in Norway. Business relationships were also very high on our list of things to strengthen, something we believe will pay dividends for Minot in the future. Like any successful relationship, the Minot/Skien partnership must be nurtured, and the reward isn’t always something you can immediately touch or see. Results are often achieved through hard work, perseverance, and patience, and those things take time to grow and mature.

Our business relationships are growing, and they offer tremendous opportunity. We spent time with a variety of economic development teams in Norway, and we’re hopeful there will soon be tangible results of those ongoing partnerships. As I said at the most recent Minot City Council meeting, more information on that potential project should be coming soon.

Norway and Minot share many similar economic traits; agriculture, fossil fuels, tourism, and outdoor recreation are all vital aspects of our respective economies, in varying degrees. How each of us utilizes our natural resources for the betterment of our communities is a topic we discussed with many officials and residents during our trip. We expect those conversations to continue in the future.

Perhaps one of the most interesting trips we took was to tour a recycling facility. Almost everything is recycled in Norway, and what few items aren’t recycled are burned to produce energy. Very few items end up in landfills. We haven’t seen the figures from the economic side of their recycling efforts, so we don’t if their method is economically feasible here or not. But the visit certainly showed us that recycling on a large scale is possible, and that it can be effective in eliminating using precious acres of land to bury garbage. We will continue the conversation.

I want to thank the Høstfest Heritage Foundation for generously providing funding so City Manager Barry and I could make the trip to Norway. Maintaining and strengthening the existing relationships — both cultural and business — between Minot and Skien is very important to the leaders of the Norsk Hostfest. We sincerely appreciate their financial commitment to preserving and enhancing our partnership.

Sincerely, City Hall

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