A delegation including the mayor of Montego Bay, Jamaica, was in Atlanta this week, learning from the city’s fire department and seeking other ways to heat up its longstanding sister-city ties.
“You are a city that is worthy of emulating in many more ways than one,” Mayor Glendon Harris told Global Atlanta in an interview just before meeting Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.
Montego Bay and Atlanta have shared formal ties for more than 40 years, and Jamaica’s tourism hub welcomes thousands of sun worshippers from Atlanta each year.
The exchanges are so intense that Montego Bay is Atlanta’s fifth largest air travel partner with nearly 100,000 passengers annually in both directions, a few more than Atlanta shares with Montreal and a few less than Cancun, Mexico, according to a Brookings Institution study.
Despite its heavy reliance on tourism, the city is open to other business collaborations, said Fred Smith, who chairs the Atlanta-Montego Bay sister city committee in Jamaica.
With a strong contingent of young English speakers in a convenient time zone, it’s prime space for call centers, he said, adding that the city is looking for companies to bid for a recycling center.
“Doing that, it would be a win-win. It’s not that it’s a competitive area. It’s virgin territory,” he added.
Even for tourism, though, the city is more than beaches. Aside from other natural scenery, it has a rich history, including the story of escaped African slaves beginning revolts against British rule in the Maroon Wars of the 1700s. The island gained independence in 1962. An arts council currently being formed in Montego Bay will ensure that the island’s ethnic heritage will be celebrated, the mayor said.
Other sister-city collaborations are ongoing. This year is to mark the 20th anniversary of an annual health trip from Atlanta coordinated by the Atlanta-Montego Bay Sister Cities Committee. A team of physicians travels to Jamaica to provide immunizations, screenings, access to supplies and a variety of other health services. Last year, they saw 3,000 patients in three days, according to reports.
Mr. Reed said he would consider coming on a trade mission coinciding with the medical trip.
Vin Martin, Jamaica’s honorary consul in Atlanta and the chair of the Atlanta-Montego Bay sister cities committee, accompanied the delegation during their four-day stay.
For more information on the sister city relationship, visit http://atlantamobayscc.org.
To contact the honorary consul, visit www.globalatlanta.com/directory/#Jamaica.