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By Don Branum
Vermont National Guard Public Affairs
Maj. Gen. Greg Knight, the state adjutant general, will travel to North Macedonia May 29, accompanied by Vermont Lt. Gov. Molly Gray and Lindsay Kurrle, the state secretary of commerce and community development, to discuss how the state might build upon the existing State Partnership Program into economic areas.
Knight said the similarities in climate, topography, and economic interest between North Macedonia and Vermont could offer significant mutual benefits to both parties.
“We hope to examine opportunities in the areas of agriculture, tourism, community development, legislative engagement, and university programs,” Knight said. “We’re certainly breaking new ground with the SPP by having Lieutenant Governor Gray and Secretary Kurrle come with us.”
Knight described Vermont’s relationship with North Macedonia as highly robust and said the trip will consist of three days filled with meetings.
“I think this is a great opportunity for us,” he said. “The relationship is always going to be there, especially now with North Macedonia’s NATO membership. That will change what they’re looking for in terms of training, guidance and mentorship … but aligned with that is what we’re doing here. What this does is bring a whole-of-Vermont approach (to the SPP).”
Gray said that whether recovering from conflict or a pandemic, creating economic security is key to creating long-term peace and national security.
“This visit is important in highlighting the lesser-known work of our Guardsmen and Women in long-term peace and security operations that support nation building and economic security,” Gray said.
In addition to meetings with Ambassador Kate Byrnes and government officials, Gray said the three officials will also meet with leaders in agriculture, higher education, business, and economic development.
Kurrle said she hopes to bring back lessons from the meetings that could help Vermont as well.
“I realize there is much expertise already in North Macedonia, and I’m eager to bring lessons learned back to Vermont to improve our own outdoor recreation economy,” she said. “As we travel to help share our strategies regarding agriculture, adventure, cultural tourism, education, and workforce development, it is important that we also listen and learn from their experiences. As we work to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, listening to the experiences of all and sharing our own in turn only serves to ensure the bond between Vermont and our partners and friends around the globe will emerge stronger than ever.”