To much of the U.S., not to mention the rest of the world, the Golden Triangle might as well be an alternate name for the fabled area in the Atlantic Ocean.
Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors President Marvell Howard hopes to change that this week during the International Conference on River Restoration and Growth in Seoul, South Korea. The conference will feature representatives from China, Egypt, Peru, South Korea and the U.S.
The conference’s 600 guests — whose airfare and accommodations are paid for by the Korean government — will pool ideas to help each country generate commerce and enhance the quality of life through the development of its major rivers.
The Mississippi River is the country’s largest river system and fourth longest in the world, making the United States’ presence at the conference substantial. Howard has gathered information from industry leaders and city officials in Vicksburg for his presentation later this week, but he’ll also be in Seoul to recruit.
Howard attended the first meeting in Seoul last summer and took note of the corporate CEOs and business representatives who were interested in other countries’ infrastructure.
Howard hopes to highlight the assets of the Golden Triangle and Mississippi State University to generate business interest for the region.
“Our relationships with surrounding counties and how we play a role in attracting corporations like Paccar and Eurocopter will be a major point of our presentation,” Howard said. “We’ve got the available land to bring in industry, too. Plus, we’re multi-cultural, especially here in Oktibbeha County.
“We want to showcase Oktibbeha County and the Golden Triangle.”
Howard was selected to represent the United States by former MSU professor J.P. Shim, a South Korea native. Shim, currently a computer information systems professor and executive director of Korean-American Business Center at Georgia State, is fond of the Golden Triangle after spending 27 years at MSU. Shim said the region can benefit greatly from a strengthened relationship with South Korea, noting the future potential for economic and cultural exchange programs between Oktibbeha County and South Korea’s Hwachon County.
“I retired last June with mixed emotions, though I’m still a professor emeritus there,” Shim said. “I want to continue my contributions to Mississippi. There are a lot of people who are interested in the Mississippi River, its water quality, and how it helps recreation and entertainment. It’s a big opportunity for the people in Mississippi.”
Howard, Shim and Oktibbeha County Administrator Don Posey were set to depart from Atlanta Hartsfield Airport today and will attend the first of three events soon after touching down in Seoul. Members of the conference will spend two days in Hwachon County for the Global River and Culture Forum, where Howard said residents of the Korean county promote and celebrate their river’s benefit through parties and advertising. Howard said Hwachon County is similar to Oktibbeha County in size and agriculture.
When the conference moves to Seoul, South Korean officials and conference members will attend the grand opening of the $2.2 billion Pan Korea Grand Waterway, which will connect two of South Korea’s largest cities and lessen the burden on road traffic.
Once the ceremony is complete, government representatives from each country will form the World River Culture Cities Forum, which will hold either biannual or annual meetings in different locations each year. Howard plans to stump for Oktibbeha County to host the 2013 meeting, which could bring close to 600 foreign diplomats and business representatives to the area.
Hosting the weeklong forum could generate instant tax revenue for Starkville, but global officials will get an up close look at what the Golden Triangle can offer international businesses.
“It’s extremely important to have the 2013 forum here in Oktibbeha County,” Howard said. “Globally, you look at the industry that’s already surrounding Oktibbeha County — you can actually tour them around and show them exactly what you have. I think our county and our region will speak well.