GLENDALE – A delegation consisting of prominent California elected officials and business representatives along with representatives from the Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region participated in a week long in depth visit to Armenia. The groundbreaking trip, which took place from September 4 to 13, was hosted and facilitated by the Armenian National Committee – Western Region to provide policymakers and business representatives of various IT companies with a first-hand understanding of the rich Armenian history and culture while giving them an opportunity to meet with influential political, social and tech leaders in order to strengthen ties and discuss mutual collaboration in both the public and private sectors.
The delegation began the trip with back to back tours of some of Armenia’s most innovative tech centers and educational institutions including Ayb School, the American University of Armenia (affiliated with the University of California), Impact Hub, Synopsis, Armath, TUMO Center for Creative Technologies, PicsArt, Ucom, and Gyumri’s Technology Center. With these tours, the delegation garnered a deep understanding for Armenia’s intellectual capacity and its booming tech industry. Some of these sites including the AUA, Impact Hub, and PicsArt also highlighted the existing ties between California to Armenia whether it was through legislation that connected the two or PicsArt having an office in San Francisco. Following a brief overview of the history of the campus and its ties to California, AUA President Dr. Armen Der Kiureghian also bestowed upon California State Senator Anthony Portantino an award to express appreciation for most recently securing six full scholarships in the State budget for AUA graduates to the UC Hastings College of Law.
Each of these sites proved to be more and more impressive as members of the delegation became engaged in fruitful discussion with representatives they met from various IT companies. During the visit with members of Impact Hub Yerevan, an incubator that serves as a community center for a network of changemakers, the delegation met with a variety of entrepreneurs from different backgrounds who provided their input concerning the Velvet Revolution and their long-term work in effectuating social change in Armenia. The legislators and business representatives also had the opportunity to be featured on a panel at an Armenian-American Business Forum held at the Marriott Hotel organized by the Union of Advanced Technology Enterprises.
“Thank you, ANC-Western Region, for the opportunity to travel to Armenia, to meet with the Prime Minister and gain a better understanding of your nation’s history and culture. It was remarkable to see first-hand, a country with an IT workforce of almost 50% women and whose political leadership is 50% women. Armenia’s deep commitment to the development of its youth also serves as a reminder of the importance of building a brighter future for all. I will be forever grateful for the wisdom, experience and warm hospitality I received when visiting your beautiful country. Thank you,” noted Assemblymember Autumn Burke (D-Inglewood).
The most moving portion of the trip was the delegation’s visit to the Armenian Genocide Memorial and Museum where they were given a special tour and learned in-depth about the tragedies endured by the Armenian people over 100 years ago. At the end of the museum tour, delegation members each took the time to write their personal thoughts in the Museum’s visitors’ book, forever becoming part of the long list of individuals who had paid their respects to those who perished during the 1915 Genocide.
The trip also included high level meetings with government officials including Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, Minister of Economic Development and Investments Artsvik Minasyan, Minister of Agriculture Arthur Khachatryan, First Deputy Minister of Transport, Communication, and Information Technologies Hakob Arshakyan, Governor of Shirak Province Karen Sarukhanyan, Gyumri Mayor Samvel Balasanyan, and representatives of Armenia’s Parliamentary factions, including Bright Armenia/Yelk Coalition, Civil Contract/Yelk Coalition, the Republican Party, and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsoutioun.
Issues discussed during the meetings included the establishment of partnerships between the IT sectors in California and Armenia, post Velvet Revolution Armenia, the strengthening of economic and agricultural ties, collaboration between educational institutions, LA to Yerevan direct flights, and the role of women in Armenian political and business leadership positions. All the meetings consisted of productive discussions where concrete ideas of mutual collaboration between California, the 5th largest economy in the world, and Armenia were exchanged.
Prime Minister Pashinyan also welcomed the ideas of the delegation and assured his willingness to work with the leaders of California through the state legislature, the Glendale City Council, and the ANCA-Western Region. Meanwhile, the ANCA-Western Region Chairperson expressed gratitude for the government’s willingness to embrace and include the Armenian Diaspora in the advancement of the New Armenia and voiced the organization’s intent to continue to allocate resources toward the advancement of Armenia by bringing American delegations of policy makers and business representatives to facilitate collaborative efforts.
“The time spent in Armenia with the ANCA-WR and the California state legislators was such an outstanding opportunity to see first-hand the incredible foundation that has been built to support the evolution of the technology and innovation economy in the country. We learned a great deal from each other and speaking for the technology industry, we are incredibly impressed with the momentum that is underway in support of females in tech and the education system that is being supported by the Armenian community which will serve to build a sustainable pipeline of talent and therefore provide stability for an advancing industry,” said Andrea Deveau of Strategies 360, a lobbying firm which represents over 100 tech industry businesses.
During the course of the trip, the delegation was also able to visit some of Armenia’s most popular sightseeing treasures including Lake Sevan, Haghartsin Monastary in Dilijan, the Yerevan Brandy Factory, the Megerian Carpet Factory, the Garni Temple and Geghard Monastery.
The delegation included California State Senator Anthony Portantino (founder and chair of the Senate Select Committee on California, Armenia & Artsakh Mutual Trade, Art and Cultural Exchange), California State Senator Henry Stern, California State Assemblymembers Autumn Burke and Evan Low, Glendale City Mayor Zareh Sinanyan, Glendale City Clerk Ardashes Kassakhian, Vice President of Global Public Policy & Strategic Communications of Postmates Vikrum Aiyer, Senior Vice President of Strategies 360 Andrea Deveau, Senior Director of State Government Affairs of Oracle Merissa Khachigian, ANCA-WR Chair Nora Hovsepian, and ANCA-WR Communications Coordinator Dickran Khodanian.
The Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region is the largest and most influential Armenian-American grassroots advocacy organization in the Western United States. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the Western United States and affiliated organizations around the country, the ANCA-WR advances the concerns of the Armenian-American community on a broad range of issues. Its endowment arm, the Armenian National Committee-Western Region, promotes education and awareness about issues related to the Armenian Cause.