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February 11. 2013 8:08PM

British delegation eyes Manchester for sister city deal

MANCHESTER - The blizzard dubbed Nemo complicated trans-Atlantic travel arrangements for a delegation from the British city of Manchester, but the group arrived safely in the Queen City on Sunday night to start a three-day tour that could lead to a sister-city relationship.

"There were some glitches getting here because of the snowstorm," said Gemma Waite French, vice president of marketing and public relations for the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce. "Some members of the delegation spent the night in Philadelphia on Saturday, but all arrived safely by Sunday night, and we started bright and early Monday morning."

Manchester Chamber President and CEO Robin Comstock had previously served as president of the Chamber of Commerce in Portsmouth, which was very active in the Sister Cities International organization. After attending an event in Cambridge hosted by the British consulate, she began to explore options for a sister-city arrangement with Manchester's namesake in the United Kingdom.

A year later, the first step in what may be a long process takes place with the three-day visit of the British delegation. The governing bodies of both cities would have to agree to a sister-city agreement and apply for membership in the Sister Cities organization. The organization currently hosts 500 U.S. communities in partnerships with more than 2,000 cities in 140 countries around the globe.

"There is a lot of pomp and circumstance around the sister city arrangement, but ultimately our goal is not just to create a public relations opportunity, but to actually create business opportunities across the ocean between Manchester, U.K, and Manchester, N.H.," Waite said.

The delegation includes David Forrest, CEO for a compliance control company that advises bio-tech, pharmaceutical and medical device clients; Paul Searle, director of an architectural firm; Nuala Lewis, director of Slouch Mat, a mouse pad product manufacturer; Chris Fletcher, vice president for policy and communications at the Greater Manchester, U.K., Chamber of Commerce; and two government officials from the U.K. Trade and Investment Northwest division.

Monday's tour included a visit to the Segway plant in Bedford and the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport. Today the group will spend most of the day in the Manchester Millyard, visiting the UNH Innovation Tech Hub, Dyn and DEKA Research and Development.

The visit wraps up Wednesday with a tour of SilverTech Inc. and Helix Design.

dsolomon@unionleader.com

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