GROWING POSSIBILITIES—Bill Strickland, executive director of Bidwell Cultural Center and Governor Aregbesola share a moment in the Green house. (Photo by Diane I. Daniels)
Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, governor of Osun State, Nigeria described his recent visit to Allegheny County as very fulfilling and beneficial from the beginning to the end. Already planning a return trip he said, “I am looking forward to building on the relationships I have made.”
In the region last month, the purpose of the visit from Aregbesola and high ranking members of his administration was to meet with government officials, business and community leaders from Allegheny County to discuss, strategize about and learn ways the two areas can work together and learn from each other.
The second visit to the area for delegates of Aregbesola’s administration, the goal of this stopover was to continue establishing partnerships in the areas of transformational leadership practices, business-to-business partnerships and win-win investment opportunities, educational exchange programs, import and export relationships, green technology and environment, health care, agriculture and cultural exchange and tours.
The purpose of previous visits has been to learn from Pittsburgh’s transformation from a heavily polluted smoky city to a city now globally recognized as a green leader that has successfully managed to improve its economy and environmental stewardship.
While in the region last month, the Governor met with Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and officials from Carnegie Mellon University. He visited and toured the sites of the Manchester Bidwell Training Center, the Braddock Pot Shop and also strengthened relationships with LavaLux LED.
A Roundtable Business Forum was held at the Kingsley Center co-hosted by Christian Evangelistic Economic Development and the Allegheny County Department of Minority, Women and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise, headed by Ruth Byrd-Smith.
The Forum provided the opportunity for discussions to occur about current business opportunities in Nigeria and possible international trade partnerships, and investment opportunities for small businesses. “The Roundtable was the second in our series of meetings to connect Southwestern Pennsylvania small businesses and institutions to the dynamic global market,” said Rufus Idris, executive director of CEED.
“The governors visit was successful,” Idris said. “The relationships that were established will be beneficial to both regions.” One relationship he is referring to is the signing of a mutual agreement between the governor and county executive to conduct business. “I see many similarities between our two regions,” pointed out Fitzgerald. “Twenty to 30 years ago young people were leaving the area, but now they are returning because the region is revitalizing. That would not be happening if it were not for the collaboration of government, universities and public and private entities. The lessons learned are that if you don’t work together you can’t move forward.”
Aregbesola pointed out that Osun State also has devised a strategy to empower their youth that makes up more than 45 percent of their population. He said through the Osun Youth Empowerment Scheme they have engaged 20,000 youth volunteers to provide community services in exchange for a monthly stipend. They too are partnering with the private sector and the education system.
Developing a mutual respect for one another and impressed with their successes, Aregbesola, Bill Strickland, executive director of the Bidwell Training Center, Richard Wukich of the Braddock Pot Shop and officials of LavaluxLED are negotiating to conduct business. Sharing his philosophy that the development of human capacity is the most important responsibility of any serious government, he says as governor of Osun, he has focused on strengthening the state in the areas of agriculture, economic development, youth employment, education and security. The three regional organizations fit within his scope of focus.
Bidwell, located on the North Side, offers training in specialized technology, culinary arts, horticulture technology and the medical industry. The Braddock Pot Shop, a ceramics program based in the basement of the Carnegie Library in Braddock, is also a water filter factory. LavaluxLED based in Ambridge is a manufacturer and supplier of LED lighting products for indoor and outdoor applications.