A Butte contingent will rub shoulders with Poland's highest officials next week when they travel to Bytom to establish an official sister city relationship.
Making the trip are Chief Executive Judy Jacobson, Public Works Director Jim Johnston, Montana Tech Chancellor Frank Gilmore, and three officials from MSE, Inc., Chief Executive Officer Don Peoples, MSE Technology Applications Senior Vice President Neal Egan, and Jeff Ruffner, vice president of MSE-TA's plas ma services division.
Poland President Alexander Kwasniewski is expected to attend the threeday event, along with Christopher Hill, U.S. ambas sador to Poland, and a host of other officials.
Besides the sister city cer emony, a high school named J.F. Kennedy will be dedicat ed and a seminar held on business opportunities in Bytom (pronounced bit-um).
The group leaves today and returns next weekend.
“ We look at this as a tremendous opportunity for Butte, and frankly we think it's a good opportunity for the state of Montana and for other providers of technolo gy,” Peoples said.
MSE-TA is hoping Bytom will purchase technology for its planned regional waste treatment center, Egan explained, and the deal could be worth between $4 million and $7 million.
“ There are different funds that exist in Poland for envi ronmental cleanup, and the U.S. has offered some money to help clean up Eastern Europe,” he said. “ This par ticular project needs approval from the U.S. Department of Commerce and Polish environmental ministries.”
The relationship between MSE and Clyde W. Frank, copresident of Polus Technologies International, Ltd., goes back years and started when Frank was a U.S. Department of Energy official working with MSE.
Since then, he's teamed with Polish scientist Ewa Marchwinska to found Polus to help bring U.S. technolo gies to Poland. Frank and Marchwinska visited Butte last November, along with Bytom Mayor Krzysztof Wojcik.
In Bytom, MSE hopes to set up plasma vitrification units, described by an MSE scientist as “ welding torches in Maytag washers,” Egan said. Inside the units, high temperatures transform haz ardous waste into obsidianlike glass material.
Like Butte, Bytom has no shortage of mine waste. In fact, it's been a mining town for hundreds more years, with a history dating back to the 11th century.
Modern Bytom has about 200,000 residents, and it's sit uated along a river in a south-central region called Upper Silesia. Coal mining was the dominant industry, Egan said, leaving a legacy of underground mines, tailings, and acid mine drainage, but no large open pits like the Berkeley.
The two cities also share a soft economy, complete with closed mines and unem ployed workers.
“ This seems to be an inter esting kind of connection,” said Evan Barrett, director of the Butte Local Development Corp. BLDC is paying for Jacobson's and Johnston's trips with a $6,000 grant from the Montana Economic Development and Revitalization Agency.
“ It's an interesting way to have us learn from each other and a way to create economic opportunities, busi ness opportunities,” Barrett said. “ Projects lead to pro jects, and the opportunities are there because of the sim ilarities we have in terms of environmental problems.”
Gilmore, who could not be reached for comment, is attending in an effort to establish technology and stu dent exchanges with Bytom's mining institute, Egan said.
Peoples said he suggested Johnston make the trip because he believes dialogue between him and Bytom offi cials will be valuable in terms of environmental cleanup strategy and city management ideas.
“ Apparently, they have done a lot of planning, and hopefully Butte-Silver Bow can gain from that,” Peoples said. “ There are a lot of phys ical problems that they're working on and we think Jim Johnston will benefit from seeing what they're doing.
“ I think it will be a good fit for us,” Jacobson said.
Butte's other sister city relationship, with Altensteig, Germany, was established in 1991 primarily to help Butte High School's German exchange program. Since then, a number of German students have attended Butte High and vice versa.