Fayetteville leaders say bonjour! Delegation of representatives from the City of Fayetteville returns from a partnership tour of sister city Saint-Avold, France

By Faith Hatton, posted 1 month ago
The delegations from both cities stand behind the grave of WWII Veteran and Fayetteville native Private Wiliam M. Shaw Jr. at
the Lorraine American Cemetery, Europe’s largest American cemetery.

Representatives from the City of Fayetteville traveled across the Atlantic to continue to build on the 30 year partnership with our sister city of Saint-Avold, France. 

The trip included Saint-Avold's annual American Week celebration which lasted from May 24 through June 2. 

From May 23 through June 2, a delegation of City and economic leaders were able to join in on the overseas celebrations of Saint-Avold. The delegation included Fayetteville Cumberland Economic Development Corporation (FCEDC) Vice President Rob Patton, Greater Fayetteville Chamber CEO & President Nat Robertson, City of Fayetteville District 2 Representative Malik Davis, District 3 Representative Mario Benavente and District 8 Representative Courtney Banks-McLaughlin. 

The group touched down in Frankfurt, Germany before making their way to Saint-Avold to meet with the City’s delegation just in time for the annual Lafayette Ceremony. The ceremony takes place in front of the Marquis de Lafayette statue, a tribute to the ties between Saint-Avold and Fayetteville. 

For the entire week, the group was treated to a lineup of historic and cultural events that aligned with their trip including the city’s American Week celebration which lasted from May 24 through June 2. 

On Sunday, May 26, the city observed Memorial Day with a ceremony at the Lorraine American Cemetery, Europe’s largest American cemetery. The grounds span 113.5 acres and holds over ten thousand American soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice in World War II, including Private William M. Shaw Jr., a Fayetteville native. 

The group toured the city of Strasbourg, the capital of the Grand Est. Region to see firsthand the town’s beauty with historical buildings, stained-glass windows and the area’s architecture.

Also included in their tour was a special trip to Natzweiler-Struthof, a Nazi concentration camp that was liberated in 1944 by the French First Army as part of the U.S. Sixth Army Group, an act that the community is forever grateful for and a historical highlight of their relationship with the Americans.

Wrapping up the trip, the group toured the Mine Museum, learning about Saint-Avold’s historical coal mine that shut down over 20 years ago before being joined and treated by Saint-Avold’s delegation and local benevolent clubs, to a farewell dinner. 

“We got to connect with the council members in the area, meet with some local business owners and develop relationships to keep the relationship of our sister city ongoing,” shared Representative Davis. “We had a lot of conversations with René Steiner, the mayor there. They really wanted us there to show representation from the City of Fayetteville. It's always important to continue to build relationships, not only in your city, but in different countries, because it builds a unity that’s beyond us.”

The trip was a return experience after a delegation from Saint-Avold visited Fayetteville, NC in the fall of 2023. During their trip, the Saint Avold delegation attended the ceremony of renaming “Walter Street” in Fayetteville, which became Saint Avold Avenue and Mayor Steiner was presented a key to the city by Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin. Our Saint-Avold friends were also treated to a tour of Fort Liberty where the delegation was able to experience the 82nd Airborne Division War Memorial Museum, provided a historical tour of Long Street Church and meet with base leaders Lt. Gen. Chris Donahue, Canadian Army Brig. Gen. Pete Huet and Col. John Wilcox. 

“It was just a great trip, it was great to get to know Mayor Steiner and in return, he asked for a contingency from Fayetteville to also visit with him and Saint-Avold,” shared Representative Benavente. “I think there’s this historical aspect that Fayetteville takes pride in, that Saint-Avold takes pride in, and when you put two and two together, you just get that much more out of the cultural exchange.”

Patton (right) pictured with Composite Park Manager Mathieu Monville and Saint-Avold’s Deputy Mayor Raymonde Schweitzer on a tour of Composite Park. 

But the trip was far from a vacation. The group also visited City Hall in Saint-Avold and met with business leaders to discuss their economic and industrial projects. They were also introduced to their local energy provider and have been able to make connections with local utility partners here. 

During the last half of the trip, the group traveled to various places in the region visiting educational, commercial and cultural sites. Starting in Saarbrücken, Germany they met with representatives from CISPA, the region’s largest cyber-security company, along with the Mayor and other government representatives. Robert Patton traveled to Metz where he toured Georgia Tech-Europe, then headed north to Porcelette, meeting business executives at Composite Park, home to nine technical companies. He also visited Lorraine University to explore the potential for future educational partnerships.

“My purpose for being there was to start having some engagements with community leaders, educational leaders at colleges and business engagements in Saint-Avold, as well as in some of the other cities; to see where we could potentially do some relationship building, networking, idea exchanges and potentially business development between our community and the communities we visited,” shared Patton. He also shared that he was examining potential trade opportunities for local businesses from both cities. 

“The mayor of Saint-Avold, one of his goals is to get products from Saint-Avold sold here. We’d already had discussions on companies in France coming here to open up potential facilities, but are there opportunities to export our companies or business over to their area as well,” shared Patton. “There’s no deals on the table yet, these things take [a] little bit of time because there are so many facets to it, but there are some very promising leads that we have that we are working on right now and with any luck, we might see some firm things develop.” 

“This trip strengthens the 30-year friendship between Fayetteville and Saint-Avold and expands our international business relationships,” said Robert Van Geons, President and CEO, FCEDC. “We identified a number of opportunities that could benefit both communities significantly.”


The Fayetteville - Saint-Avold Friendship Alliance was given credit for coordinating the trip. You can learn more about the group and their work to keep the partnership alive on their Facebook page:

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