A delegation from Cambodia was greeted Monday morning in a welcoming ceremony at the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce before spending the day touring Cleveland.
“It is nice to have our honored guests here with us today,” said Gary Farlow, Chamber president. “Welcome to Cleveland. This is a great honor to us. We are looking forward to a hopefully very long-term relationship with you and your government.”
Farlow welcomed Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland and state Rep. Kevin Brooks, as well. Presentations were made by Dr. Bill George, chairman of the People for Care and Learning board, Rowland and Dr. Fred Garmon, PCL International director. Gift bags were given to each member of the Cambodian delegation. The bags held items made locally in Cleveland.
Cameron Fisher, Church of God public affairs director, gave a brief description of the items.
“Some of these things are made only in Cleveland, Tenn. Like M&M’s,” Fisher said, pausing for applause. “These Twix bars are only made in Cleveland.”
Additional gifts included a Voices of Lee music CD, a Lee University shirt, items from Merck & Co., batteries and a “rapper snapper” among other items. One special gift was presented only to His Excellency Governor Kep Chuk Tema of Phnom Penh. Rowland gave the foreign governor a key to the city. Rowland joked, “I have not discovered what door it fits yet.”
The visiting dignitary answered several questions following the Chamber welcome ceremony.
“We are very happy to form a sister city with Cleveland,” he said. “This is our first visit to the United States and we love Cleveland. It is a very beautiful city. When we drive through Cleveland it is like a modern forest.”
The Cambodian delegation members were given a private tour of the Whirlpool Cleveland Division manufacturing facility. Dicky Walters, plant leader, gave a presentation and personally led the delegation through a short tour. Cameras continued to snap pictures as the Cambodians made their way through the factory. Various appliances manufactured in the Cleveland factory were on display and the delegation were given a peek into the assembly line process.
“This trip has gone great,” said Julie Martinez, a worker with PCL. “It really seems to be deepening ties. For Cambodians, relationship is everything. To get this opportunity is wonderful.”
The tour of Cleveland continued after lunch with a visit to the Amazon factory. An official sister city dinner on the campus of Lee University brought a close to Monday’s events. The delegation will be touring additional factories and local businesses Tuesday. The rest of the week will be spent with Dr. John Gregory, seeing a NASCAR race event, touring additional factories, and meeting Gov. Bill Haslam.
According to a recent People for Care and Learning press release, the group traveling with the governor includes Phnom Penh’s director of administration, director of finance, director of planning and investment, and other dignitaries. His wife and daughter also accompany the delegation.