Sister Cities Can Be Economic Development Tools

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Sister Cities Can Be Economic Development Tools

27 Indiana cities have overseas partners, most in China, Japan and Germany

(INDIANAPOLIS) - More than two dozen Indiana cities have sister cities overseas. But economic development specialists say just signing up a partner isn't enough.

Greater Columbus Economic Development Corporation president Jason Hester says it's like an online dating profile -- if the relationship's going to work, you want someone you have a lot in common with, in terms of geography, population, primary industries, and other factors. 

Hester says a sister city relationship creates a beachhead for local companies to invest overseas, and vice versa. Because the two sides know each other, the sense that there's a long-term relationship makes those development deals more than an interchangeable transaction. 

But Colin Renk with the America China Society of Indiana says maintaining that relationship requires regular followup. Columbus and its Japanese sister city Miyoshi visit each other every year, and until last year, Columbus officials made a China trip every year too. Hester says Columbus has "friendship city" relationships with another seven Chinese cities, only to realize it's spread too thin -- China is so large that even a weeklong visit wouldn't allow enough time to visit all eight cities.

At least 27 Indiana cities have partnered with 60 foreign cities. More than half of those are in China, Japan and Germany, but cities in 15 other countries have forged partnerships with Hoosier cities. Indianapolis has the most, with nine.

(Photo: csfotoimages/Thinkstock)

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