Perkins selected for West Africa trip
Published 12:00 am Friday, July 29, 2005
the Selma Times-Journal
If an air workers strike doesn’t cancel the trip, Selma Mayor James Perkins Jr. will have the honor of representing Selma, The World Conference of Mayors (WCM) and Alabama on a trip to the West African Republic of Benin.
“My recent decision, to accept an invitation to travel with a delegation of Alabamians to the Republic of Benin, West Africa provides me with the opportunity to speak about one of these relationships and how it impacts our local efforts to build and grow Selma,” Perkins said in a written statement. “I hope that I will be able to share something that will help the people in Benin as well.”
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Perkins, who was elected by an international delegation of mayors to be Second Vice President of the WCM, said the purpose of the trip is to establish relationships, promote constructive dialogue on trade and global issues of common interest, and develop economic development strategies that will mutually benefit the Republic of Benin and Alabama’s Black Belt.
“The African Growth and Opportunities Act provides legislative justification for this venture,” Perkins said.
Alabama Agriculture Commissioner, Ron Sparks is a member of the traveling delegation and the Alabama Development Office will be represented as well.
“The Republic of Benin has shown real interest in Alabama. I believe that if we can build a mutually beneficial relationship,” Sparks said. “This trip is our first step.”
The honorable Phillip White, Mayor of Uniontown and Mayor Johnny Ford of Tuskegee, will be going on the trip as well.
“Our desire is to look for innovative ways to trade with West African countries particularly in agricultural products,” Perkins said.
Perkins emphasized that the trip will not use city funds.
“Even though we expect this trip to reap benefits for our communities, because it is very speculative at this point, we are not using city funds to travel,” Perkins said. “The trip is funded with World Conference and personal dollars.”
Perkins likened the trip to one in his first administration, to Seoul, South Korea in which he helped woo Hyundai and its many suppliers to South Alabama.
“It was stated by some that the trip would be a waste of time.
Well, three years later, that opinion has been proven dead wrong,” Perkins said. “These trips when handled properly can be extremely beneficial to our community and in this instance I hope that I will be able to share something that will help the people in Benin as well.”
Perkins said that striking air workers overseas have put the trip in doubt.
The problem is not getting over there, Perkins said, but rather getting there only to have a strike shut down air service leaving no return flights home. Scheduled to fly out on Saturday, Perkins said he will be monitoring the situation Friday before making the final decision.
Still, Perkins hopes he gets the chance to take the trip and make some positive connections for Selma.
“As mayor of Selma, there are relationships and associations that have been established and are maintained throughout the world that are used to support development in Selma,” he said.
“Conversely, these relationships provide opportunities for me to share Selma’s experiences with national and world leaders so that our exchanges are mutually beneficial.
(The trip) provides me with the opportunity to speak about one of these relationships and how it impacts our local efforts to build and grow Selma.”
The Republic of Benin is in Western Africa, bordering the North Atlantic, between Nigeria and Togo.
Originally called Dahomey, the country gained its independence from France in 1960; the name was changed to Benin in 1975. From 1974 to 1989 the country was a socialist state; free elections were reestablished in 1991.