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Joining hands with Verona:
A Valuable exchange

August 2019 Mayor David McCann as seen in Celebrate Hilton Head Magazine

A month ago, we joined the Italian-American Club of Hilton Head Island on a flagship trip to Verona, Italy and had a wonderful exchange of ideas. The trip was planned following a resolution the Town Council enthusiastically and unanimously passed two years ago, establishing a friendship city pact with Verona. It gave us the opportunity to act on the directives we outlined in that resolution. We had a jam-packed schedule that included meetings with Verona Mayor Federico Sboarina, other Verona elected officials and city representatives, and the Verona Chamber of Commerce. Mayor Sboarina and I signed a Friendship City pact - the first step in the process towards a Sister City pact. The City of Verona already has Sister City agreements in place with Munich, Germany; Nimes, France; Saint-Josse-ten-Noode, Belgium; Salzburg, Austria; Pula, Croatia; Nagahama, Japan; and two other communities in the United States: Albany, New York and Fresno, California. We hope to become their third in the U.S.

Sister cities, I have learned, play a key role in strengthening global relationships and creating an exchange of ideas on arts and culture, business and trade, community development and youth and education. It amazed me that a city 4,750 miles away from Hilton Head Island dealt with many of the same issues we face as an island: protecting the environment, attracting business, preserving culture and supporting the tourism industry. In many regards, Verona is well ahead of Hilton Head Island in some areas. Verona is a city of 300,000 residents and welcomes 13 million tourists annually. It has to sustain an infrastructure to accommodate its residents and influx of tourists. Like Hilton Head Island, Verona has actively worked to preserve green space. The city has built an extensive array of cultural assets. While there, our delegation had the opportunity to attend the opening night of the 2019 Verona Opera Festival held in a huge Roman amphitheater that seats 15,000 people. The theater was filled. The flow of traffic was so well managed, I didn't hear of or see any traffic jams. All that Verona has done over many years has helped create a strong economic and cultural foundation for the city.

As we sat amidst Verona city officials and other leaders, our conversations focused on what we can learn from each other and what we can accomplish together under our newly signed agreement. I brought with me and delivered three letters - one from Dr. Al Panu, USCB’s Chancellor, one from Bill Miles, president of the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce, and one from Carolyn Vanagel, president of the Hilton Head Island Concours d’Elegance & Motoring Festival. USCB is hoping to begin an exchange program for hospitality students. The Chamber of Commerce seeks an opportunity to connect with the Verona Chamber of Commerce and exchange ideas on marketing to tourists. We will be working with Concours to welcome a delegation from Verona to Hilton Head Island either in November of this year or in 2020.
I also will be working with Town Manager Steve Riley and his staff to organize a team to focus on how we can work with our counterparts in Verona on business, arts and culture, environmental sustainability, and other areas. This group will lay the groundwork to move us to next step in the process of becoming a Sister City. Stay tuned.