KOTA KINABALU, March 20 – As part of the Kota Kinabalu-Portland sister city initiative, Sabahans may soon be able to enjoy American craft beer from the microbrewery capital of the United States.
The US embassy’s cultural affairs officer Arend C. Zwartjes said that Sabah was an attractive market for the craft beer venture and several groups were looking at ways of importing the beer, either pre-bottled or by setting up a microbrewery.
“There is a lot of interest to see how we can bring Portland’s beers to Sabah. Several groups from Portland, as well as interested parties here are exploring options on how we can do this,” he said, adding that Portland has over 50 microbreweries in the city.
Bringing Portland’s finest brews to Sabah is just one of several ventures that are being explored by both sides as the sister city initiative comes together, hopefully to be finalised by September this year.
Other commercial products being considered are Columbia outdoor sportswear and Keen footwear, both Portland-based companies.
Zwartjes, who was in Kota Kinabalu on a working visit recently, said that non-governmental organisation, Portland-Kota Kinabalu Sister City Association (PKKSCA), is heading efforts, while its counterpart here is a steering committee headed by mayor Datuk Abidin Madingkir.
“On the American side, it is driven by citizens, consisting of a diverse group of business people, many of whom have connections with Kota Kinabalu. They are already planning their next trip here,” he said.
The twin sister initiative has several pillars that it aims to explore: education, tourism, wildlife, environmental conservation and business.
“While a lot of projects under the initiatives are still at the exploratory stage, we have had several groups already come to Sabah,” said Zwartjes when speaking to Malay Mail Online.
“Two weeks ago, a delegation from Portland State University consisting of the director of international partnerships and engineering, among others, came to KK and visited the tertiary varsities here to look for opportunities in areas such as research and student exchanges,” he said.
Later this month, 14 students and one faculty member from the University Honors College of Portland State University will arrive for a 10-day study exchange programme with University Malaysia Sabah (UMS).
Zwartjes said that one definite outcome so far is a full-sponsored six-month scholarship to study at the World Forestry Centre for a chosen participant from the Sabah Wildlife Department that should be happening in a few months’ time.
He said that the scholarship is just one of many small steps contributing to the strengthening of the US-Malaysia relationship.
The Malaysian committee consists of representatives from the Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry; City Hall; Sabah Wildlife Department; Sabah Tourism Board; Sabah Forestry Department; and some non-government organisations.
Deputy chairman of the committee Mohd Iskandar Ali said that despite Kota Kinabalu having other sister cities, this initiative was at a different level, because it is community-driven.
“The people involved are really keen and interested to see their projects go through. I think we will be seeing many more exciting outcomes from this partnership,” he said.
Kota Kinabalu’s other sister cities are Yongin City, South Korea; Ratchaburi Province, Thailand; Rockingham City, Western Australia; Vladivostok, Russia; Heyuan City, China; Jiangmen City, China; and most recently, Yeosu City, South Korea.
A township in Sabah, Beaufort, also has an existing sister city relationship with Beaufort, North Carolina in the US.