Lawrence can benefit culturally and economically through its sister cities program, although the program may not bear fruit immediately, local supporters of the Lawrence sister cities programs said Tuesday night.
"I think there was a shift in how people viewed the sister cities program during the last decade," said Carol Shankel, chairman of the city's Sister City Advisory Board.
"Japan was becoming an economic power . . . and commercial exchange was becoming a very important part of what we wanted," Shankel said.
She made the remarks during the first sister city town meeting, held at the Lawrence Public Library.
About 40 people attended the meeting, including members of Friends of Eutin, Lawrence's sister city in West Germany, and supporters of Hiratsuka, Japan, with which Lawrence plans to finalize a sister city arrangement this fall.
SHANKEL SAID the public has discovered that foreign sister cities can bring economic benefits to American cities. For example, she cited a large Japanese company that built a manufacturing plant in Bloomington, Ind.
"A primary reason why the plant was built was because of the sister city relationship Bloomington had with the Japanese city," Shankel said.
Ted Kuwana, an organizer of supporters for Hiratsuka becoming Lawrence's second sister city, said ties with the Japanese city could bring investment in the future.
"We're already seeing that," he said.
Kuwana said 15 teen-agers from the city would visit Lawrence next week. The children will stay with host families and tour the city and Kansas University.
He said that trip is proof that the Japanese are ready to invest in the future in Lawrence.
Dr. Charles Loveland, president of Lawrence Friends of Eutin, said Lawrence would benefit from economic ties with the West German city, but the process may take a while.
"GERMANY IS in such a state a flux right now. Technically, it's still divided but essentially it's one country, and it will be a while before we see some additional exchanges," he said.
Loveland said private contacts between members of sister cities are more important that official city government contacts.
"I think it's important that the city itself is not involved except for support," he said.
Some Lawrence residents expressed disapproval after city commissioners used public funds to travel to Eutin, and proposed the same for a trip to Hiratsuka in September.
Eutin formally became Lawrence's first sister city 10 months ago.
A formal agreement between Lawrence and Hiratsuka is expected at the September meeting. Kuwana said he expected a delegation of 12 to 15 people to travel to the Japanese city.
Also at Tuesday's meeting, Shankel said the sister city advisory board is considering Besancon, France, as a third sister city for Lawrence.
However, she said the board will make no recommendations to the city commission until ties with Hiratsuka are complete.