The Hot Springs Sister City Program has won the Sister Cities International’s 2015 Innovation Award.
The award, which highlights the field of economic development, is for a city with a population less than 100,000.
The project entered spotlights the introduction of a new industry to the town: Sake. The city hopes to produce Sake locally and also offer programs and facility tours to promote the traditional Japanese beverage.
According to a news release, details of the plan include the following backstory: ‘In September 2012, a four-member business delegation traveled to Hanamaki, Japan to tour a Sake brewery. While there, the business leaders met with owners and discussed the possibility of Sake production in the U.S. Fumiaki Sasaki, president of the Hanamaki International Exchange Association, located Nanbu Bijin Brewery, a well-known global producer of top Sake. In 2015, an agreement was made that intern Ben Bell, a young man with ties to Hot Springs, would stay for two brewing seasons and work on continuing a business plan to bring production to Arkansas. The expenses of building a brewery will come from both private and public funding.’
The sister city of Hot Springs is Hanamaki, Japan. Like Hot Springs, Hanamaki has bathhouses that feature thermal waters from nearby hot springs. The city is surrounded by rolling hills and a low mountain range. Hanamaki also has a vibrant art culture and is home to many artists including the late Miyazawa Kenji, Japan’s most illustrious poet.
Award winners will be honored at a special ceremony on July 18 during Sister Cities International’s 59thAnnual Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota.