Pulaski County builds on economic development relationship with Turkey

Back in October, when Pulaski County Administrator Jonathan Sweet and Economic Development Director Michael Solomon visited the Turkish Embassy in Washington, D.C., Turkish officials said they would like to visit Pulaski County.

That visit happened this week when Mustafa Koca, Chief Commercial Counselor for the embassy and Selman Kurt, Commercial Counselor were welcomed to Pulaski County.

NRCC President Dr. Pat Huber explains the Virginia Community College system to Turkish diplomats. (Mike Williams photo)

Pulaski County boasts of being Southwest Virginia’s Center of International Business, as it plays host to industries from nine countries – Sweden, Brazil, Mexico, Australia, Great Britain, Germany, Canada, Columbia and Poland.

Sweet and Solomon’s earlier trip to the Turkish Embassy was made in an effort to expand the county’s business recruitment efforts to the Republic of Turkey.

Turkey is among the world’s leading producers of agricultural products, textiles, motor vehicles, transportation equipment, construction materials, consumer electronics and home appliances.

As commercial counselors, Koca and Kurt act as liaisons between communities in America and Turkish companies looking to make direct investment in the U.S.

During their visit here this week, Koca and Kurt got a close-up view of what Pulaski County and the New River Valley could offer a Turkish company in terms of workforce training and other areas important to foreign investors.

NRCC instructor John Somervell explains one of the machines in the school’s machine shop to Turkish diplomats Mustafa Koca (center) and Selman Kurt. (Mike Williams photo)

Monday the Turkish counselors were treated to visits to Virginia Tech and Radford University. On Tuesday the duo visited Volvo’s Customer Center prior to visiting New River Community College where they were given a tour of the school’s “heavy technology” classes including the machine shop, instrumentation, forensics, control automation systems and 3-D printing.

At New River, the Turkish officials received a quick primer on the community college system from NRCC President Dr. Pat Huber.

“The community college system is uniquely American,” Huber said.

“We consider everything we do to be workforce development.  Whether a person becomes a doctor, lawyer, technician, nurse – whatever – our students will at some point enter the workforce,” she said.

Huber explained that NRCC is one of 23 community colleges in Virginia where about 240,000 students attend classes. New River, she said, has approximately 4,600 students that would represent about 2,400 full time students.

Huber said NRCC officials often say, “We offer everything from A to Z, but we stop at ‘W’ because we offer everything from accounting to welding.”

Following the hour-long tour of NRCC’s heavy technology classes, those taking part were treated to lunch in Edwards Hall, served up by Pulaski County High School’s culinary arts department – namely instructor Laura Norris and senior student Jaxon Callahan.

Following lunch, County Board of Supervisors Chairman Andy McCready read a resolution passed Monday night by the full board proclaiming Tuesday as Republic of Turkey Day in the county.

McCready presented Koca and Kurt a framed copy of the resolution.  Koca, in turn, presented the county with a piece of ceramic art.

Prior to ending the event, Sweet presented both Koca and Kurt with a sample of fudge from Pulaski’s Blue Ridge Fudge Lady shop.

By MIKE WILLIAMS, The Patriot