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British contingent explores potential sister city offerings in Manchester

New Hampshire Union Leader

February 12. 2013 8:03PM
Dean Kamen, foreground, president of DEKA, gives advice to Nuala Lewis, director of Slouch Mat Ltd., as the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce hosts business leaders from Manchester, U.K., during a tour of DEKA on Tuesday in Manchester. (THOMAS ROY/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER ­- Samuel Blodget would probably be pleased to know that visitors from Manchester, U.K., were quite impressed with their city's namesake in New Hampshire.

The 18th century industrialist and architect died in 1814, but lived long enough to see the New Hampshire town of Derryfield change its name to Manchester in honor of his desire to make Derryfield the "Manchester of America."

Blodget was so impressed with the canals, lock systems and river-powered mills in the industrial metropolis across the North Atlantic that he recreated much the same industrial complex around the Amoskeag Falls, setting in motion a series of events that helped bring the Industrial Revolution to New Hampshire, and left the city with a legacy of mill buildings.

That legacy was in evidence Tuesday as a delegation from England's second-largest city toured the Manchester Millyard on the second day of a three-day visit, as guest of the Greater Manchester (N.H.) Chamber of Commerce, in hopes of establishing a sister-city relationship

The first day of the visit on Monday focused on downtown, Elm Street and the airport. Today's tour will take the group to businesses in outlying neighborhoods. But Tuesday was dedicated to the Millyard, described by developer Arthur Sullivan at an Intown Manchester event earlier in the day as, "the most important asset that this city has."

Without venturing beyond the massive brick buildings clustered around Canal, Commercial and Dow streets, the contingent of British visitors was able to tour the New Hampshire High Tech Council, the UNH Manchester Emerging Technology Center, Dyn Inc., DEKA Research and Development, Next Step Orthotics & Prosthetics and Southern New Hampshire University's online operation.

They had lunch at the Dyn Cafe, a bistro created and staffed exclusively for Dyn employees, and were hosted at dinner by Paul LeBlanc, president of SNHU.

Kick-starting a relationship

The British delegation visited engineering labs and the Emerging Technology Center at the UNH campus, both of which help students engage with the business community in the development of new products and research projects.

Dyn CEO Jeremy Hitchcock hosted the group on a visit to the Internet service company's Dow Street headquarters, where a 30,000-square-foot expansion is underway.

At DEKA, inventor Dean Kamen gave some advice to British visitor Nuala Lewis, who was hoping to find a U.S. market for Slouch Mat, a mouse pad with a moldable base that grips uneven or narrow surfaces. Install some USB ports, and take it to Brookstone, he told her.

Along with Lewis, the delegation included David Forrest, CEO for a compliance control company that advises biotech, pharmaceutical and medical device clients; Paul Searle, director of an architectural firm; two government officials from the U.K. Trade and Investment Northwest division; and Chris Fletcher, director of policy and deputy chief executive at the Greater Manchester, U.K., Chamber of Commerce.

Fletcher said the sister city effort will start out on a chamber-to-chamber basis. "We'll get some businesses involved, and we'll see if we can kick-start some customer relationships and partnerships," he said. The next step will be for a Manchester, N.H., contingent to visit the U.K.

Lynn Shaw, head of international trade services for the northwest portion of the United Kingdom, said the two Manchester chambers could agree to a memorandum of understanding that would enable robust trade and cultural exchanges between the two cities.

While Manchester, N.H., is dwarfed by its British counterpart, a city of 2 million people, the visiting dignitaries see the entire New England market as something they can reach through their New Hampshire partnership.

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