County Council member optimistic after India trip - SSNL
|The Summit County contingent is shown in India with Narendra Modi, the chief minister of the State of Gujarat, shown at center in white. County Councilwoman Ilene Shapiro is shown fifth from left.|
|Photo courtesy of Ilene Shapiro|
“The country is really like two worlds,” said Shapiro, an Akron resident. “It’s fascinating like that in that it provides them with opportunities and challenges. We have challenges, but they have different challenges.”
She said she was struck at “the dichotomy between the advanced technology and the forward thinking, and yet the sheer masses of people that are not employed and that don’t have skills.”
“On one hand you’ve got this very advanced society,” she said. “But out of more than a billion people, around 600 million are not employed and fall under the cracks. They have some significant challenges as a country in economic development.”
But the nation has some progressive companies that are working to improve the conditions there, she added.
“They understand that to make their own country grow, they have to do things,” she said.
Shapiro was among 20 people from Greater Akron to participate in an economic development mission to India that took place Feb. 1-13. The trip, planned by the Summit County Mayors Association (SCMA), was originally scheduled for late 2008 but was postponed after terrorist attacks in Mumbai, one of the destinations.
Shapiro said the trip had been in the works for more than a year. The trip was a fact-finding mission that participants hoped would open some doors to bringing companies to Summit County. In addition to Shapiro, economic development professionals from Akron, Hudson and Twinsburg took part, as well as the mayors of Stow and Hudson.
The local representatives met with several chambers of commerce in the cities of Mumbai, Ahmadabad and New Delhi, Shapiro said. They also met individually with different companies.
A highlight of the trip, she said, was attending the PlastIndia Trade Fair, one of the largest plastics trade shows in the world.
“It was huge,” Shapiro said. “There were people from all over the world there.”
Shapiro said the SCMA was helped greatly by the Ohio Department of Development, which has an office in India.
Shapiro said she was impressed with the chief minister of Ahmadabad, whose role is similar to a governor in the city of 4.5 million.
“He is very progressive,” she said. “They are redoing the waterways, building houses along them, and rebuilding highways.”
The trip kept the participants busy, but Shapiro said there was some time for sightseeing in the country, which she had never before visited. A four-hour trip to the Taj Mahal allowed the group to see how people live in rural parts of the country.
“When you get outside of the cities, folks live almost like in ancient times,” she said. “You see people carrying wood on their heads. It’s a very different place.”
The Taj Mahal was very impressive and worth the trip, she said.
Now that Shapiro and her counterparts have returned, they are meeting to continue the momentum that has started. There are hopes that a group from India will come here, she said.
“Two of the chambers and a trade association were interested in having a group come here,” she said.
But she noted that progress will not come immediately.
“These things develop over time,” she said. “You can’t go one time or have one conversation. We need the opportunity to continue the dialogue.”
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