KANSAS CITY, Mo. – An EcoPartnership between the City of Greensburg, Kansas and Mianzhu City, a community in the Sichuan Province of China, has been formed to help two devastated communities rebuild a more sustainable future.
Dick Hainje, Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Region VII, is currently leading a delegation in China as part of the partnership. Both areas have recently been hit hard by natural disasters. A 2007 EF-5 tornado destroyed 90 percent of Greensburg; a 7.9 magnitude earthquake left much of the Sichuan Province in ruins in 2008.
“As damaging as they were, both of these disasters presented an opportunity most communities will never have. They were able to start with a clean slate to develop and build a community that fits their needs and desires,” said Hainje who has been deeply involved in the rebuilding efforts since joining the response and recovery effort hours after the Greensburg tornado. “It’s a rare opportunity and we wanted to put these two communities with a common bond in touch with each other.”
Hainje and Region VII have worked closely with city and state officials and other federal agencies since the early hours after the Greensburg tornado. Because of the extent of devastation, the Region quickly deployed its Long Term Community Recovery (LTCR) team of professional planners, architects, and engineers to work with the community on the long range vision of how they would recover.
The LTCR plan developed through the summer of 2007 and delivered to the city in August, focused on using technology and traditional design in a small town to reduce long-term costs and increase energy efficiency. The plan addresses such issues as energy-efficient construction, the attraction of “green” businesses to boost the local economy, ecotourism, and other environmentally friendly and sustainable concepts, describing projects that will fulfill the sustainability criteria.
The delegation is made up of Greensburg community leaders including Mayor Bob Dixson, City Administrator Steve Hewitt, Superintendent Darin Headrick, Chamber of Commerce President Steve Kirk, and Steve Castaner, who led FEMA’s Long Term Community Recovery team in Greensburg. While in China, the group is sharing information and ideas regarding sustainable, “green” development and exploring creative ways to embed the technology in their community. The group plans to tour construction projects as well as offer encouragement as both cities rebuild. Members of the group will also travel to Beijing to participate in an official ceremony marking the beginning of the EcoPartnership.
EcoPartnership is an initiative of the U.S. Department of Treasury and the U.S. State Department aimed to enhance relations with China and encourage economic and sustainable growth. EcoPartners Mianzhu City and Greensburg, Kansas will explore the unique opportunities found in a disaster-impacted community to develop projects that foster energy security, promote economic sustainability, and advance environmental sustainability in the United States and China. Greensburg and Mianzhu City will be in the forefront in finding solutions to the energy and environmental challenges that both countries face.
The delegation departed for China on Saturday, November 29 and will return to the United States on Friday, December 5. On Thursday, the group will participate in an official signing ceremony in Beijing.