Latvian delegation looks to UT for example to follow

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Secret Service agents surrounded all the Main Building’s entrances early Tuesday morning, but UT Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Kevin Hegarty said their presence on campus is more common than the public thinks.

Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis, eight Latvian cabinet members and 20 significant Latvian business leaders met with University officials Tuesday to learn more about the way the University is run, Hegarty said.

Hegarty said delegations from across the world visit the University year-round.

Hegarty said the group of Latvian officials is traveling across the country to learn about our country’s economic development and to encourage businesses to invest in Latvia. He said they came to Texas because of how well the state has fared economically during a time of national recession.

“They are working toward an economic investment reform,” Hegarty said. “Austin is rumored to become the next ‘Silicon Valley’ and that has definitely come to their attention. They visited the University because they believe it has a big part in Austin’s success.”

The trip to Austin was sponsored by the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, Hegarty said. He said after visiting with the University officials, the Latvians met with the UT System Chancellor Francis Cigarroa, attended a luncheon at The Driskill Hotel and then visited with Gov. Rick Perry.

Vice Provost Janet Ellzey attended the luncheon at the Driskill and said over 75 Austin leaders and businessmen were at the function.

Ellzey said at the function she spoke with the rector of Riga Technical University in Latvia about establishing collaborations between the two universities.

“He is interested in student and faculty exchange,” Ellzey said. “They have significant strength in engineering and other technical fields and there are opportunities for collaboration providing we can find the right partners on campus.”

Cigarroa said he met with the delegation to discuss how the System works as a whole. In an email, Cigarroa said meeting with the prime minister was an honor.

“It was a privilege to meet Prime Minister Dombrovskis and learn of our mutual priorities which included education, health care, energy, the environment and the economy,” Cigarroa said.