2007-05-16 / Features

Thessaloniki Creates History At 2007 Hermes Expo

BY CATHERINE TSOUNIS

Marcos Arvanitis holding his unique street sign of Kolokotronis with fellow Arcadians (l. to r.) Rev. Paul Panos and Rev. Anargyros Stavropoulos, Chancellor of the New Jersey Archdiocese. Marcos Arvanitis holding his unique street sign of Kolokotronis with fellow Arcadians (l. to r.) Rev. Paul Panos and Rev. Anargyros Stavropoulos, Chancellor of the New Jersey Archdiocese. Thessaloniki was the sister of Alexander the Great. Her name was given to the only natural seaport after Athens in Greece. The seaport of Thessaloniki is a jewel in Northern Greece. Coveted by foreign powers through history, she remains the unofficial capital of the Balkans. The Bulgarian incursions during WW I resulted in massive slaughter of local inhabitants. The Asia Minor Catastrophe of 1922 resulted in the displacement of Hellenic communities. The business and agrarian middle class of Pontus, Cappadocia, Kessaria, Constantinople and Greek Ionia along the Asia Minor coast emigrated to Macedonia. Their innate drive for success has initiated a rebirth of Macedonia. Thessaloniki has become a dynamic European metropolis in full action.

Thessaloniki unified the Municipality, citizens, local chambers and clubs. The city deleted the Municipality's debt and organized its personnel, projects and services effectively. The city is at a crossroads of three continents of Europe, Asia and Africa. Journalist Christos Nicolaidis of the delegation explained, "We are the only municipality in the world that has a cooperation of cities in the region of Thessaloniki."

Themis Kartsiotis, CEO of Helexpo, addressing the audience as Paul Kotrotsios looks on. Themis Kartsiotis, CEO of Helexpo, addressing the audience as Paul Kotrotsios looks on. A remarkable moment for the Municipality of Thessaloniki unfolded on April 27, 28 and 29 at the 2007 Hermes Expo at Trump Marina Hotel and Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The Municipality of Thessaloniki and Helexpo reinforced the image that their city is the bridge to the American economy and society. Paul "Pavlos" Kotrotsios, the founder and organizer of Hermes Expo, is viewed differently by all. One fact remains: Kotrotsios is the catalyst for opening trade relations between Thessaloniki and Jersey City, Philadelphia and possibly Baltimore, Maryland. I had the unique experience of accompanying the Thessaloniki delegation on Friday, April 27 in a whirlwind visit to Jersey City, Philadephia and concluding at the Hermes Expo in Atlantic City in one day.

Journalist Christos Nikolaidis (l. to r.) with fellow delegate Georgios Arvanitidis in front of their exhibit of Thessaloniki. Journalist Christos Nikolaidis (l. to r.) with fellow delegate Georgios Arvanitidis in front of their exhibit of Thessaloniki. My extraordinary day began in a horrendous rainstorm, in a taxi ride from Bayside New York to Double Tree Hotel at 569 Lexington Ave. "Pavlos told us you are coming," said a smiling Themis Kartsiotis, CEO of Helexpo. "We welcome you." Our trip commenced with a reception at Jersey City. A program followed that included an Invocation by the Very Rev. Chrysanthos Zois of St. Demetrios Church, Jersey City; Introduction by Emcee Bill Matsikoudis, Jersey City Corporation counsel; Welcome by Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy; Remarks by John Kiparissidis, Secretary of the Hellenes Abroad Program of the Greek Ministry; Jason Kirin of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey; Paul Kotrotsios of Hermes Expo, and Themis Kartsiotis, CEO of Helexpo. Participating companies who hosted the reception were Goldman Sachs, Evergreen Shipping Agency and AMB. Prominent Greek Americans included Michael and Vasiliki Vasilakis; Chris Paskalides, Mr. Michos, Frank T. Araps and others.

The writer with Ted G. Spyropoulos, SAE USA Regional Coordinator. The writer with Ted G. Spyropoulos, SAE USA Regional Coordinator. "Thessaloniki and Jersey City are special to me," said Bill Matsikoudis." He was a major player in the official recognition of a trade agreement between Jersey City and Thessaloniki. It was announced during the program. Secretary Kiparissidis said he was happy to hear Greek spoken in the program. Greece will help international Hellenes. We want the Hellenes overseas to come home and help us in need. Mr. Kartsiotis said, "We work with businessmen with vision." Mrs. Lemonia Kolovou, vice mayor of Thessaloniki expressed the city's best wishes, presenting a symbolic gift to Mayor Healy. Howard Tung and Raymond Line of Evergreen Shipping, a Taiwanese firm, believe, "Jersey City port is close with the City of Thessaloniki. We serve Thessaloniki and Turkey. We like the city because of its good location. We fly the Taiwan, United Kingdom, Italian and Panamanian flags with our headquarters in Taiwan."

A wonderful buffet of Greek cuisine followed. As we left City Hall at Oviedo Way, the Greek flag was flying. The Thessaloniki delegation was excellently attired, with a polite, pro- American attitude. The Jersey City trip concluded with a visit to Goldman Sachs, the tallest building in Jersey City. The firm overlooks the Manhattan skyline and is an investor in Greece.

Our trip continued its path to Philadelphia. Marcos A. Arvanitis, with his son-in-law George Gogakos, explained his patent on signs with historical figures entitled TOFOS (The Light). "TOFOS will change one's life. We want cities to adopt our signs that have major figures that have changed our lives. I was inspired by Kolokotronis, who comes from our village Nestani in Arcadia, Greece."

We arrived in the evening in Philadelphia. We were given an overview of the city's historical sites. Dinner was at the Estia, a restaurant with a colonial atmosphere. Ted G. Spyropoulos, USA Regional Coordinator of the World Council For Hellenes Abroad (SAE), said, "We hope to encourage the municipalities and prefectures in Greece…to participate in this outstanding event (Hermes Expo) that takes place every year. We believe…this honorable venture will bring together American and Greek businessmen for better relations and a better understanding in doing business together." Pavlos Tamvakis and others were part of SAE's delegation.

A significant event took place at Estia that night: an official declaration of a trade agreement between Philadelphia and Thessaloniki was announced. In 2002, an agreement of increased education, culture, trade and economic activities was established. In 2007, the agreement was expanded on a higher plane of activities. An International World Trade Center in Thessaloniki was announced. Mrs. Savvides of the Cyprus Trade Mission announced future plans of trade with Philadelphia. "Pavlos is a phenomenon," said Marcos Arvanitis. "All his life he has been bringing persons together. He is exceptional." Another participant in the event said "Pavlos Kotrotsios is a one-man show whose efforts are unique. Twenty travel agents are unable to do what he does."

Over the next two days at Hermes Expo, a scenic exhibit of Thessaloniki and its communities was displayed. Materials indicated the port has a special Free Zone that provides facilities to Balkan countries, an international airport, industrial complex and International Trade Fair. Georgios Arvanitidis of the delegation explained his family was from "Aivali and Smyrna." Elias Neofytides, president of the Pan Macedonian Studies Center in Whitestone, New York, is zealous in promoting Macedonia and the Pontic communities on Macedonian T.V.

The work of Themis Kartsiotis is legendary at Helexpo. What exactly is Helexpo? It is the national exhibition agency of Greece. Two million persons visit annually their Thessaloniki International Exhibition Centre. Visit online www.helespo.gr and www.thessalonikicity.gr/English/index.htm. Dynamic, international business leaders opened my eyes to a modern Greece at the 2007 Hermes Expo. Mayor Vassilios Papageorgopoulos of Thessaloniki invites all to visit his Web site that says "your presence…honors our city."

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