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Vermont Guard Partnership With North Macedonia Expands To Economic Initiatives

Secretary Lindsay Kurrle (left), Adjutant General Greg Knight (center), and Lieutenant Governor Molly Gray talk about the new Enhanced Economic Initiative with North Macedonia
Pat Bradley/WAMC
Secretary Lindsay Kurrle (left), Adjutant General Greg Knight (center), and Lieutenant Governor Molly Gray talk about the new Enhanced Economic Initiative with North Macedonia

The commander of the Vermont National Guard and two state officials will travel to the Balkans this weekend to expand a decades-long partnership with North Macedonia.

The Vermont National Guard has partnered with North Macedonia through the federal National Guard State Partnership Program to provide training and support since 1993.

North Macedonia joined NATO last year and is now seeking EU membership.  Vermont Adjutant General Greg Knight says the Vermont Guard and state officials are expanding the partnership to foster economic opportunities. 

“We’ve been with North Macedonia for 26 years now so now we’re ready to explore," Knight said. "We’re going to expand the relationship beyond military to military and include the possibility of an Enhanced Economic Initiative and bring the relationship to the next level. There are many similarities that connect Vermont and North Macedonia. We’ve got parallels in climate, topography and certainly our economic interests. I think there’s opportunity here for both Vermont and North Macedonia to leverage these similarities for mutual benefit. So specifically we hope to examine opportunities in the areas of agriculture, tourism, community development, legislative engagement and university programs. And we’re certainly breaking new ground with the State Partnership Program by having Lieutenant Governor Gray and Secretary Kurrle come with us.”

For the first time a Vermont Lieutenant Governor, Democrat Molly Gray, and a state agency secretary,  Lindsay Kurrle of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, will travel to North Macedonia in support of the state’s Partnership Program.

Lieutenant Governor Gray, who in the past worked in the western Balkans for the International Committee of the Red Cross, says this new initiative marks a milestone for the Vermont Guard partnership. 

“I’m really excited to be part of this new phase of that relationship through this Enhanced Economic Initiative," Gray said. "Economic security is critical to long term peace and security. That’s what this mission is partially about.  But it’s also about the important economic opportunities for us as Vermonters. In addition to meetings with Ambassador (Kate Marie) Byrnes and government officials we’ll also meet with agricultural leaders, business leaders, university leaders and others involved in economic development with the hopes that each relationship we build can be built upon in the weeks months and years to come to build a mutually beneficial economic partnership for Vermont.”

Secretary Kurrle hopes the state and North Macedonia can develop a number of joint economic opportunities. 

“We know that we have a lot of synergies in terms of hospitality and outdoor rec," Kurrle said. "I know that they have, I haven’t tried it, but amazing wine. So maybe there’s an opportunity to import wine or other products that they make.  I understand that they make pine syrup.  That’s something I hope that we’ll experience while we’re over there. And our goal as much as we would like to bring some expertise to them in terms of our hospitality and our outdoor recreation, tourism and what-not, I’m as excited to learn from them and see what they do and how they do it differently to see if we can bring something back to Vermont as well.”

The group leaves Saturday and returns Thursday.