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Thorsby tries to strengthen Swedish ties

Thorsby leaders are looking for the town’s future in the same place its settlers came from more than a century ago — Sweden.

Town officials meet Sunday with Per-Erik Person, a representative from the Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce.

The meeting was designed to discuss ways Thorsby can strengthen business and cultural ties to its ancestral homeland.

“We want to open the lines of communication,” said Tracia Bussey, a member of the U.S. Swedish Chamber of Commerce.

Bussey met Person through her work with the chamber. She also coordinates the town’s annual Swedish Festival in October.

“We got to talking about the connections between us and Sweden … our roots,” said Bussey. “His interest was sparked immediately.”

Person is also president of Green Solutions from Sweden, a company that represents more than 100 businesses that use environmentally friendly technology. He is in Alabama this week attending the Green Building Focus Conference & Expo at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex.

“The Swedish market is too small. What we want to do it broader,” said Person. “We want to find a hub in the U.S. for clean tech.”

Several Swedish businesses recently opened in Fayetteville, Ark., with Person’s help. He hopes more businesses will expand into the South.

“I like the people of the South. You have hospitality,” said Person. “It’s easy for a Swede to feel at home here. It’s easy to do business here — it’s not so complex.”

During his time in Thorsby, Person was given a pin by Mayor Dearl Hilyer and peaches by Pennie Broussard with the Chilton County Chamber of Commerce. He also met this year’s Swedish Festival Queens.

Besides hoping to recruit Swedish businesses to central Alabama, Thorsby leaders are interested in starting a sister city relationship with Torsby, Sweden.

Person said he would take information back with him to Sweden and work to establish that connection between the two towns.

Thorsby was founded around the turn of the century by Scandinavian immigrants who had originally settled in the North but came south looking for a milder climate and fertile soil, according to the town’s Web site.

One of those earliest settlers was Theodore T. Thorson, for whom the town was eventually named (the suffix “by” meaning town in Swedish).