A Sister Cities International project with Hai Yang, China, initiated eight years ago by Cranberry Township could be finalized this year.
The agreement would make Hai Yang a sister city to both Cranberry Township and Butler County, said Jack Cohen, president of the county Tourism and Convention Bureau.
Hai Yang is in the Shandong Province on the Yellow Sea in eastern China.
“It’s taken all this time to get it done, but I got this wonderful letter from them saying they would love to come visit in September,” Cohen said.
Tourism officials, in partnership with Cranberry, will plan a welcoming event for the visit, Cohen said.
If signed in September, the sister city agreement with the Hai Yang will be the second in Butler County. Saxonburg currently enjoys a sister city relationship with Muhlhausen, Germany.
Cohen said the sister city project with Hai Yang will bring not only tourism to Butler County, but also potential Chinese businesses looking to expand into the U.S.
“As people get to know us and we get to know them, we build relationships,” Cohen said. “You never know what individuals are looking for.”
Hai Yang chose Butler County and Cranberry because Chinese Westinghouse employees living in Cranberry Township have reported a high quality of life, Cohen said.
Westinghouse is building a nuclear plant facility in Hai Yang, Cohen said.
He was thrilled when he received the letter from officials in the county’s potential sister city almost 7,000 miles away. “I almost fell off my chair when I got the letter,” Cohen said.
He said a woman from Hai Yang recently came to Cranberry to learn about nuclear power plants due to the plant being added in Hai Yang.
“She went back and met with the government and helped the letter to be a reality,” Cohen said.
He said he is now preparing a reply to the letter from Hai Yang officials, which he will send by the weekend. “We can’t wait to plan the (welcoming) events,” Cohen said.
Jerry Andree, the longtime Cranberry Township manager, said a sister city association was formed eight years ago when Westinghouse Electric located its corporate headquarters in the township. The association’s intention was to name Hai Yang as Cranberry’s sister city because of the Westinghouse nuclear plants being built there.
He said the project was put on the back burner by the local government in Hai Yang.
“They have new administrators there and someone dusted the letter off from years ago and would like to renew that acquaintance,” Andree said.
When the Chinese Prime Minister visited Pittsburgh several years ago, he mentioned to Westinghouse officials touring the city with him that the Chinese nationals who were working at Westinghouse in Cranberry loved the community. “The president of Westinghouse called me to tell me that,” Andree said.
He said the sister city project is valuable because township and county businesses will profit from visits by Hai Yang officials and those who visit could someday be in positions of power.
“It’s the right thing to do,” Andree said. “It’s good for business and good for international peace.”
The Hai Yang delegates’ visit in September will mark their first trip to Butler County, Andree said.
They will likely visit Westinghouse and be introduced to Cranberry’s elected officials. Andree said they also will tour Pittsburgh.
The Cranberry Area Diversity Network’s two co-founders have also been involved in the potential sister city project with Hai Yang since its conception eight years ago.
“The benefit is always communication between two disparate people,” said co-founder Gary Winterhalter. “When we have any communication between cultures, it’s good for everybody.”
He said part of Cranberry’s prosperity is due to the township’s diversity.