Chamber plans trade mission with sister-city

Medford group will make trip to Alba, Italy, from Oct. 31 through Nov. 9

After years of establishing Sister City, political and student exchanges with Alba, Italy, the Chamber of Medford/Jackson County is ready to add commercial ties to the list.

A trade mission led by Chief Executive Officer Brad Hicks will visit the Tuscany city in the northwest province of Cuneo, Oct. 31-Nov. 9. Joining Hicks will be Medford City Council members Daniel Bunn, Jr., and Eli Matthews, along with former council member, mayor and state legislator Al Densmore

The venture took shape after Al and Sally Densmore returned from a trip to Alba. In the moments before a chamber meeting Densmore and Hicks discussed the possibility of economic and trade relationships between Medford and Alba.

"We're not in the travel business," Hicks said. "We haven't made decisions to go to China or Alba lightly. We've been trying to cultivate relationships with folks in China for some time now and we've learned the importance of those relationships. This is exploratory to see if there is interest in growing our relationship with Alba beyond cultural and political exchanges."

Hicks said the farm-to-table notion, sometimes known as the slow food movement, traces its roots back to Alba.

"There is a lot to be learned as we're cultivating the movement in our region," Hicks said.

Italian chocolatier Ferrero Rocher is headquartered in Alba as well. One of Ferrero's subsidiaries is Nutella, the hazelnut spread company.

"We've been told they have no distribution facilities in the West," Hicks said. "We want to see if they would be interest in a distribution center here. They use hazelnuts in their products and Oregon produces 95 percent of the U.S. hazelnuts. So it seems like that's a conversation that should take place."

Bill Maentz, chairman of the chamber board, said challenging economic times may create opportunities.

"If you were going to throw a dart at a map to pick a possible trade partner, other than Oregon's number one trade partner, China, our sister city, Alba, seemed like a perfect choice," Maentz said.

Matthews said such a trip could well produce ties similar to cultural efforts decades ago.

"We've done the student exchanges and even political ones," Matthews said. "Perhaps the next step will be a commercial one. This will be that first toe in the water as we explore commercial opportunities."

The trip is open to community members. For more information, call 541-608-8526 or email

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or Follow him on Twitter @GregMTBusiness.

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