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Getting in Touch with our Sister City

Posted by admin on September 26, 2013

We are now returning from our Leadership Exchange trip to Cologne, Germany. Our decision to lead a delegation of approximately 100 business and community leaders to Cologne was the result of several strategic discussions.

View photos from Leadership Exchange 2013

Indianapolis shares many similarities with the city of Cologne such as size, population and location of city assets. Cologne and Indianapolis share comparable ideas and areas of economic development, especially in the automotive, life sciences, and energy industries. Additionally, this year marks the 25th anniversary of the Indianapolis/Cologne Sister City relationship. Important discussions were had, comparisons made, and business relationships formed.

Celebrating Our Sister City Relationship

In 2013, Indianapolis celebrates the 25th anniversary of our sister city relationship with Cologne. To recognize this special milestone, the city of Cologne hosted a lovely program full of significance to celebrate our relationship. On the same evening, Cologne celebrated the 25th anniversary of their sister city relationship with Volgograd, Russia.

In 1988 on the same day that Cologne and Indianapolis signed a formal sister city agreement, Cologne and Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad) also signed a formal sister city relationship. The city of Cologne had hoped to sign an agreement that united the three cities in a joint relationship; however, at that time the Cold War had not yet truly ended and there wasn't a willingness in the US to sign this type of agreement with then-Soviet cities. However, on the day that Mayor Bill Hudnut signed the agreement with Cologne, the mayor of Volgograd, Yuri Starovatykh, was also present to sign their city's agreement with Cologne, and all three men sat together at a table for the signing of their agreements. We are pleased that in honor of the anniversary of their sister city relationship, former Volgograd Mayor Yuri Starovatykh joined us for a special evening of recognition and celebration. Mayor Hudnut sent his regrets that he was not able to join us, but noted that he remembers clearly the day that the agreement was signed and sent his regards to Former Mayor Starovatykh.

Sister city relationships are more than just ceremonial. These relationships foster important cultural exchanges that help to grow and expand the thinking and approaches of the cities involved. During the lunch presentation on Monday, Jackie Nytes of the Indianapolis Public Library shared about the exchange the library has done with not only Cologne, but also our sister city in China. The exchange of both staff and books was a excellent learning experience for all involved. The Indianapolis Fire Department is also participating in a cultural exchange. In his remarks at the event, Indy Chamber President and CEO Michael Huber recognized Jason Wistler, an IFD firefighter who is currently on a three week experience in Cologne.

Economic and Community Development

The first day of the program was devoted to the discussion of economic development through global trade, tourism, and culture. After reviewing the Indy Chamber's multi-faceted approach to international economic development, the program transitioned to a session that focused on trade shows and conventions. Delegates heard from Guido Gudat, vice-president of Koelnmesse. Koelnmesse is Germany's largest trade show organizer and hosts 75 international trade shows and 2,000 conferences for 340,000 visitors a year. Exploring the German business model for trade shows and conventions was interesting, but it was especially interesting for delegates to hear from Leonard Hoops, CEO of Visit Indy, about how we can apply their model to Indianapolis and some of the things his talented team is doing now to build our convention pipeline for years to come.

Day two of the program focused on transportation, logistics, and energy. The delegation heard from Michael Garvens, chair of the management board for the Cologne Bonn Airport. Cologne Bonn Airport is among the top ten airports in Europe for cargo. UPS is their primary carrier for cargo, and we were pleased to have Marion Frings, region public affairs manager for UPS, share about their experience and priorities. The critical role of a city's airport for economic development is indisputable. A healthy, growing airport is a cornerstone of an economically competitive city. There are many similarities between our airports, both the drivers of success and the challenges faced.

The program also included a visit to Rhine Energy. Germany consumers pay the highest electricity prices in Europe and it is projected that prices will continue to rise. Germany's new renewable energy policy has met with mixed reviews. The shift away from nuclear power and toward green energy, known as Energiewende or energy revolution, has resulted in reported 20% increases to energy bills. There has been much discussion about this from different people during our time here. One of the primary campaign issues in Sunday's election in Germany was how these utility rates should be managed.

The final day of programming dealt with education and workforce development. A presentation from Indianapolis Deputy Mayor Jason Kloth provided framework and context for this issue. A diverse panel of some of our city's leaders shared their perspectives of the education and training challenges our city and region face. Our thanks to Dan Elsener of Marian University, Dr. Kathy Lee of Ivy Tech, Brooke Huntington of EmployIndy, David Garner of the International School of Indiana, Greg Fennig of IPL and Dennis Bland of the Center for Leadership Development for their comments and participation.

The discussion concluded with a trip to Ford Germany. At Ford-Werke GmbH, delegates had a great overview of the German educational system beginning with primary school. But our focus was on vocational and apprenticeship training programs. Ford is a model for this and their executive team not only shared information about the program as a whole, but also outlined some of the detailed methods and planning involved in the program. This discussion about Ford's comprehensive apprenticeship program is especially relevant as we consider what education and training is needed for our existing workforce as well as our future workforce in order to ensure we are competitive in the global economy.

What's next?

As we discuss opportunities promote Indianapolis' strong business climate to a global market, we will look for best practices we can apply to our own efforts to make Indianapolis even better.