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Martinsburg gets new sister city

June 15, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The City of Martinsburg has signed an agreement that could bring more foreign companies into the Eastern Panhandle.

Martinsburg Mayor Earnest Sparks signed a sister city agreement Monday morning with the city of Chia-Yi, Taiwan, home to one of the companies building an aircraft production facility in Berkeley County.

Accompanied by a delegation of Taiwanese dignitaries, Chia-Yi Mayor Po Ya Chang met with local civic and business leaders to discuss future cultural and economic exchanges.

"We are here to promote a fuller relationship and friendship," Chang said.

The idea of forming a sister-city relationship with Martinsburg began three years ago when U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., was working to bring TLM Aerospace to Berkeley County, Chang said.

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The new TLM facility at the county's airport will produce single-engine, four-passenger airplanes and is expected to employ about 400 local workers when it is finished. No completion date has been announced for the project.

With two Taiwan-related aviation projects already in the county, Sparks said he wants to work with Chia-Yi to keep an open dialogue and work on future economic projects.

"We know that relationships are the key to everything. This is an opportunity to get to know people and maybe things will develop down the road," Berkeley County Development Authority Executive Director Robert Crawford said.

Chia-Yi becomes the second sister city for Martinsburg, joining the Russian city of Peterhoff, which signed an agreement with Martinsburg two years ago.

A delegation from Peterhoff, just outside the Russian city of St. Petersburg, visited Martinsburg earlier this year to discuss possible economic projects.

Two buses carrying the Taiwanese delegation and local officials toured Berkeley County on Monday afternoon. The tour included a look at the joint American-Taiwan Sino Swearingen jet production hangar.

The tour got some added excitement when an experimental airplane crashed in a field behind the Sino Swearingen plant.

No one was hurt in the crash and the delegation toured the facility while state police inspected the wreckage outside.

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