A group of 40 French-speaking Belgian, Swiss, and French nationals recently traveled throughout Western New York as part of a week-long study tour through the Buffalo-Lille Association, part of Sister Cities International. Jean F. Gounard, director of international student affairs at Buffalo State College and president of the Buffalo-Lille Association, organized the week’s activities with the help of Buffalo State faculty and staff and many individuals from the Niagara region.
The visit marks the sixth time a group from Europe has toured Western New York since the Buffalo-Lille Association formed in 1989. As a kick-off, the delegation met with City of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, exchanged gifts, and toured city hall. Then they met Erie County Executive Chris Collins and later head to a soul food dinner at the North Buffalo Community Development Corporation.
For many in the delegation, the visit to Western New York marks the first time visiting the U.S. The group began their visit Friday with a ride on the Maid of the Mist and a viewing of the reenactment of the French-Indian War at Old Fort Niagara. They hope to build international partnerships and develop exchange programs, such as the existing lawyer exchange with the Erie County Bar.
The delegation – consisting of business owners, heads of medical practices, teachers, architects, painters and cultural and political leaders – divided into four groups to tour leading businesses, cultural organizations, medical centers, and educational institutions. They will visit notable organizations and institutions such as the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, General Mills, Roycroft Campus, CertainTeed, New Era Cap Company, Sorrento Lactalis, the Darwin Martin House, Rich Products, Calspan Corporation and General Mills.
The tour group is began each day at Buffalo State College before departing for sites throughout Western New York. According to Gounard, the visit has significant impact for connections between the local and international community. “Buffalo State will be at the center of a community-oriented program that will benefit all of Western New York,” he said.
David Graville, the mayor’s liaison to Sister Cities for the City of Buffalo, said, “The tour creates a stronger bond between countries and helps build Buffalo’s identity as an international city.”
Lille, France is one of seven cities as part of Buffalo’s Sister Cities Program. More than 15 businesses in the Buffalo area are currently interacting with Lille businesses. For more information, please visit http://www.freewebs.com/buffalolille or http://www.ci.buffalo.ny.us/Home/OurCity/Buffalo_Sister_Cities. We hope you gave our European friends a hearty “bonjour” if you saw them around town.