Innovation is the key to strengthened ties between the Illawarra and the United States, according to the Sydney-based US Consul-General.
Hugo Llorens, who is responsible for consular area of NSW, QLD and Norfolk Island, visited Wollongong for the first time on Friday to get a sense of how links between the region and his home country could be improved.
Prior to his posting in NSW last October, Mr Llorens served as the Assistant Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Business leaders were keen to pick his brain about potential ways to expand their operations and connect with like-minded US companies.
Mr Llorens said while he still had much to learn about the area and how best to help build on its relationship with the US, his initial impression was that Wollongong had a lot of offer.
‘‘I’m very impressed by the city,'' Mr Llorens said.
''Clearly it’s a city in transition with huge benefits and pluses in terms of location, you have a lot of smart people here, the universities, and I like the city council’s focus on innovation,’’ he said.
‘‘I believe greatly that when you look at the future of US and Australian relations going forward, a big part of that is about linking up partnerships in all areas that have to do with innovation.’’
Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said the region was in the process of diversifying what it could provide to other countries in order to keep it strong.
‘‘I think we’ve got a lot to share, especially in education in terms of the role of the university and research models,’’ he said.