Russian group adds Hillsboro to Kansas economic tour

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
A small delegation of Russian officials visited Hillsboro Wednesday as part of an eight-day learning trip to central Kansas.

Three delegates, a facilitator and an interpreter visited two Hillsboro industries and the historic Peter Paul Loewen House during its day-long stay in Hillsboro.

They also ate lunch at Olde Towne Restaurant, where they were joined by Hillsboro Mayor Delores Dalke.

Their 10-day visit to the United States was sponsored through the Open World Leadership Center, a federal agency with roots in the Library of Congress. The other seven days in Kansas were spent in Wichita.

Hosting the visitors in Kansas was the Rotary Club of West Wichita, led by coordinator June Costin.

The delegates spent the day in Hillsboro at the suggestion of Glenn Lygrisse, who works with Costin at Butler County Community College. Lygrisse is a former resident of Hillsboro who worked for several years in admissions with Tabor College before joining the BCCC staff.

“Rather than just seeing huge companies like Boeing in Wichita, I thought it might be more helpful for them to see how they might be able to start smaller companies like Hillsboro has,” Lygrisse said.

While in Hillsboro, the group was scheduled to tour Hillsboro Industries and Container Services Inc.

In the mid-afternoon, Stan R. Harder, director of museums, led the group through the Peter Paul Loewen House. In addition to explaining the Russian connection of Mennonite pioneers, Harder used the opportunity to glean information about from the delegates about some of the museum items that came from that country.

Members of the touring delegation were chosen by the Russian government from more than 7,000 applicants who wanted to participate in the program.

Open World organizes exchanges between U.S. and American leaders in eight professional fields. The focus of this tour was economic development. The other areas of focus are education reform, environment, federalism, health, rule of law, women as leaders, and youth issues.

The delegates participating in the tour were: Nina Viktorovna Kostenko, director of the Youth Fashion Theater in Velikiy Novgorod; Mikhail Yuryevich Savelyev, a management consultant from Izhevsk; and Daniya Zavdatovna Vagapova, director of a company in Samara that provides mortgage loans.

Dmitriy Konstantinovich Popov, from Moscow, was the facilitator for the group and Alla Bova, who lives in Pittsburgh, Pa., was the official translator.

Costin and Karen Wedel of the Rotary Club drove the visitors from Wichita.

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