Towson welcomes its 'sister'

April 10, 1992

In sports, the cliche goes that a tie is like kissing one's sister, which is to say, one isn't supposed to feel emotion about the result. In Baltimore County, Executive Roger B. Hayden is trying not to get too emotional about his county's new "sister," South Glamorgan County in Wales.

Mr. Hayden today welcomes the arrival of a Welsh delegation from the United Kingdom. The Baltimore County leader has said he won't be content to exchange Christmas cards and wants tangible economic benefits to accrue from the sister county relationship. He and some staffers traveled to Wales last January for a formal signing of the agreement. About a dozen people from South Glamorgan will visit this coming week.

Already, one idea has been seriously discussed: Two economic development staffers, one from each county, would swap homes for several months to find and foster business opportunities in the other's land. Baltimore County officials also have made contact with a laser disc company eager to open facilities in the United States. The Welsh leaders feel they can provide Baltimore County businesses with a foothold into the European Community market. As for tourism, both sides view themselves as sources of less expensive lodging near major cities and attractions.

Such global handshakes aren't new. The state of Maryland, several counties, cities and the Port of Baltimore relate to 39 such "sisters," from China to Brazil and from Israel to New Zealand.

The most tangible benefit to accrue from the state's many relationships so far was probably the decision by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines to fly out of Baltimore-Washington International Airport two years ago, says Jean Van Buskirk, Maryland's sister program director.

Ms. Van Buskirk played matchmaker to Baltimore and South Glamorgan counties. They share some history, including the fact that steel factories in both lands have seen better days. The Welsh also took inspiration from Baltimore to begin developing their own Inner Harbor, although it will be much larger than Harborplace, spreading eight miles along the seafront.

If the relationship forming between Baltimore and South Glamorgan matures into more than cultural exchanges and ceremonial excursions by political leaders, it will have been worth the effort. Even if it means kissing one's sister.

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