The Second Summit of Mayors meets in Kansas City on Friday.
By Knight-Ridder News Service
The stretch of concrete that drivers know as Interstate 35 will be spotlighted this week as mayors from Mexico and Canada visit Kansas City to discuss how it links them together.
The Second Summit of Mayors will allow cities up and down the route to discuss how they can work together on economic development and lobbying efforts.
More than 350 representatives from cities and businesses are expected to attend. Five topics will be discussed during Friday's meetings: education, city-to-city alliances, infrastructure, advanced technology and legal issues.
The first summit was held in April in Monterrey, a city in northern Mexico. There, nearly 90 mayors from cities along the corridor signed an agreement to work together. That number may double after this summit, said Susan Ballew, summit director.
``This is our opportunity to really begin working together and making things happen with economic development along the Interstate 35 corridor,'' Ballew said.
An example would be the effect of combined lobbying efforts for federal funding.
``It's a pooling of resources so you are not fighting with one another, you are working together,'' Ballew said.
Future opportunities include trade among the three countries. Some discussions have also been held with Central and South American cities hoping to link with the new mayor's group.
Some businesses have expressed interest in the meetings, Ballew said. But the summit at this point is still trying to organize the mayors and their interests.
But some businesses have already benefited from Kansas City's contacts in Mexico. In April, representatives of Kansas City Power & Light Co., Farmland Industries, Farmers Commodities Corp. and the Kansas City Board of Trade traveled to Mexico, along with city officials.
Ballew and other officials are hoping to avoid the controversy that surrounds the North American Free Trade Agreement. Enacted in January 1994, the agreement reduced trade barriers, allowing for more imports and exports among Canada, Mexico and the United States.