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Bolivian flag flies over Timmins

South American group exchanging ideas as part of international program

A delegation from Bolivia is bundling up this week as they tour Timmins.

The South American group, led by Vinto Mayor Maria Patricia Arce Guzman, is in town as part of an international partnership with the Timmins Economic Development Corporation (TEDC). The two cities were paired together through the Local Economic Development Program run by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM).

To help welcome the group to the city, the Bolivian flag was raised at city hall.

“When you see that you are in a city that’s up north, very cold, harsh winter, harsh weather, the first question is who wants to go to Timmins? And after being here we all want to come back not once, but many times because what we have seen is a warmth of the people and how open-hearted all of you are,” said Erik D. Meier, translating for Guzman.

This week, Guzman is hoping to learn ways to improve the lives of youth and women in Vinto.

“We want people to remain there, to stay there, to improve their livelihoods and we believe that the experiences that we can learn and that Timmins can share with us are going to help our people — youth, women — people to stay there, create or have their families, and to increase economic opportunities and increase their livelihoods,” translated Meier.

Vinto and Timmins started working together in August when a delegation from Timmins visited the South American municipality.

On that trip, TEDC CEO Christy Marinig said they worked with officials to look at the strengths, opportunities and threats in Vinto.

This week, she said they’ll be showcasing local ideas that could also be made into a project for Vinto.

“One of (the ideas) right now is the possibility of doing a starter company program geared to women and youth in Bolivia where we teach people how to develop a business plan,” she said.

She noted that other areas of interest for Vinto are updating their website and communication to encourage tourism, and to strengthen associations to be more business savvy.

“They have a lot of skills and products, they don’t necessarily have the business expertise yet,” said Marinig.

By the end of this week, Marinig hopes that they will know what their project is so they can stay in touch via technology to develop the four-year partnership.

The FCM program is sponsored by Global Affairs Canada.

“Timmins had a very strong application, the work that TEDC does around inclusion of youth, the different types of programs they have around startup companies…that really drew some interest in partnering them with Vinto,” FCM program manager Katherine Murillo said.

While similar partnerships have been inked, Timmins is the first Canadian city to host their international partner.

“They’re doing a great job at it and will be an example to the other Canadian municipalities as they invite their international partners to visit them,” she said.

There are other ways that the relationship with Vinto could help out locally.

Murillo explained that Timmins businesses could be interested in what Bolivian businesses are doing, or that schools may want to get involved.

“The opportunities are there,” she said.