PUBLISHED: 3:27 PM on Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Russian partners visit Juneau to learn about economic growth strategies

Photo by Amanda Gragert
  Donna Pierce of Juneau, left, and Deputy Mayor Merrill Sanford, third from right, meet with Russian delegates, from left, Anna Medvedeva, LuBov Goloha, Tatiana Boqatyreva and Vitali Zhukov, on Feb. 20.
When talking economics, language is no barrier for the people involved in a joint partnership between Juneau and two partner cities from Bikin and Luchegorsk in Russia.

Delegates from the Russian Far East were in Juneau from Feb. 19-23, as part of the CityLinks economic development program, which enables Juneau to assist Luchegorsk in the creation of a support system for small and medium businesses and the enhancement of the tourism potential in the municipality.

"We are sure this partnership will allow us to have very visible economic results," said Vitali Zhukov, deputy head of the Pozhersky district in the Luchegorsk municipality.

"We got this idea from the Juneau delegates when they came to visit us that if they like this place then other people of Alaska, of Juneau, will be happy to visit us. This way the development of tourism is started as well."

In Bikin, Juneau and the Juneau Economic Development Council have been instrumental in assisting with the creation of a business plan for a brick factory to stimulate the economy in the municipality.

"The reason most of all is the presence of natural clay in our territory," said Tatianna Boqatyreva, of the Bikin municipality.

"The help in the partnership with the business plan outlines revenue for the budget and also to have available jobs for the people of Bikin.

Funded by the United States Agency for International Development the Juneau-Luchegorsk partnership is one of four CityLinks Partnerships in an Alaska-Russia Far East program, managed by the International City/County Management Association. The two-year CityLinks Alaska-Russia Program is providing RFE communities with access to hands-on technical assistance, training and focused exchanges with their Alaskan partner cities in order give RFE community leaders the opportunity to learn about municipal management and economic development strategies from local government colleagues. The program was inaugurated in March 2006 with Juneau participating as a partner to the City of Bikin, Russia. Luchegorsk joined the program in December 2006 and the upcoming trip is their first to Alaska.

"It's a definite benefit from all aspects. We see new places. We see new people. We see new objects, and everything is impressive," Vitali said. "Everything is wonderful. We are a little bit jealous."

Juneau is assisting Luchegorsk in setting up an operational economic development structure to facilitate good relations with the business community with the overall goals of making the City an attractive option for investment and job creation. In Bikin, the partners are working to finalize the draft business plan for the brick factory and begin attracting investors to implement the plan.

"We like this beautiful place, we love these beautiful people, and this business relationship we are building is also building friendships, which are very dear to us," Boqatyreva said.

Juneau partners have already provided training and guidance to Bikin's staff on business plan development, research into investment opportunities, and data collection and presentation.

Donna Pierce of Juneau who has gone to Bikin as part of the program said working together to start the projects in Russia has been rewarding.

"It was one of the most wonderful things I've ever done," Pierce said. "I appreciate very much the support of the mayor and assembly."

Representatives met and worked closely with Juneau Economic Development Council as well as several Juneau Rotary Clubs, the Small Business Development Center, the State Division of Tourism and various small businesses in order to further their project goals.

"There's a lot more to this than them learning about us and us learning about them," said Merrill Sanford, Juneau deputy mayor. "There's the personal relationships that are formed, and I think formed for a lifetime. That's the more important thing we're learning other than economics."

After returning to Russia, the partners will continue to implement the projects with a return trip to Russia for Juneau staff set for May.