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Wilmington, Qatar capital sign ‘friendship city’ agreement

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Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki and Doha Minister of Municipality Abdullah bin Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Subaie sign the friendship city agreement as Wilmington City Councilman Chris Johnson and Qatar Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al Thani look on. | PHOTO COURTESY OF GOVERNMENT OF QATAR

WILMINGTON – In a first for his tenure, Mayor Michael Purzycki recently did some overseas diplomacy in signing his first Friendship City agreement with officials in Doha, the capital and most populous city of Qatar.

Purzycki, along with his chief of staff Tanya Washington, administrative assistant Sarah Luoma, and Chris Johnson, chair of the Wilmington City Council’s Finance and Economic Development Committee, flew to Doha on April 8 to engage with Qatari officials and sign the agreement. The costs of travel and stay were reportedly borne by the Qatari government, according to the mayor’s office.

Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki plants a “friendship tree” in the new Rawdat Al Khail Park in Doha during the three-day trip. | PHOTO COURTESY OF CITY OF WILMINGTON

The city officials spent three days in Doha, a city of about 650,000 people on the western edge of the small nation that sits like a finger off the Arabian Peninsula in the Persian Gulf. Doha is nearly 10 times larger than Wilmington, which is Delaware’s most populous city.

“The Qatari government has extended an invitation to visit their beautiful country at no expense to the [Wilmington] city government, and to establish an ongoing relationship that we have accepted and for which we are most appreciative,” Purzycki said in a statement announcing the trip. “Officials in Qatar take particular interest in the development of American cities and are eager to learn more about our culture and traditions while sharing their own. Chris and I look forward to establishing a Friendship City Agreement and, among other things, discussing potential Qatari government investment in Wilmington. We will also present details of the unprecedented neighborhood stabilization and development program that is underway in our city.”

The mayor’s office did not respond to the Delaware Business Times’ inquiries seeking to learn more about the trip and how the relationship was brokered. Purzycki recently told WDEL that it was agreed too after some persistence from Qatari officials.

Councilman Johnson told DBT that the Qatari officials were interested in Delaware in particular because of its reputation as a business and finance hub in the U.S. – and some Qatari companies already have Delaware incorporated entities. Although Wilmington is also the hometown of President Joe Biden, Johnson said the president’s presence in Delaware was never brought up during their trip.

Calling the trip to the rapidly developing Middle Eastern city “an eye-opening experience,” Councilman Johnson said the whirlwind visit left little time to venture into the city beyond some pre-arranged visits to sites of interest, including stadiums constructed for the upcoming 2022 World Cup. The city delegation met with the Qatari prime minister, commerce secretary, mayor of Doha, and representatives from leading renewable energy ventures.

“We did discuss with some of their leadership about a consortium or working group that would look at specifically them investing in the U.S. They do have an interest; they’ve done some projects in Washington, D.C., area and they’re looking to expand their U.S. footprint,” Johnson said. “City council and the mayor’s office will be exploring that relationship and how it looks for foreign investment, namely in a commercial project although we discussed the potential to do some affordable housing.”

“They were actually very interested, and we’re going to have further talks.”

Looking back at the quick visit to Doha, Johnson said he was struck by the city’s example of possibilities – it’s awash in modern architecture, renewable energy and a population that has more than tripled in the last two decades.

“Yes, they have enormous resources [in oil wealth], but it shows what can be done by focusing on the right investments and working together,” he said.

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