Relationships between sisters form a special kind of bond. For many, sisters are not only family, but a best friend.
Some cities across the world share this bond.
A sister city represents a partnership between two communities located in different countries. This partnership is a long-term agreement between representatives from both cities.
The sister city movement was initiated around 1956 in the United States to try and promote international understanding and friendship, according to the Muncie-Delaware County, Indiana Development Alliance. The Muncie-Delaware County, Indiana Development Alliance also stated that today, there are hundreds of sister city agreements between the United States and cities all over the world.
Muncie, Indiana has a total of five sister cities. Their most notable relationship is with Zhuji City. Zhuji is located in the Zhejiang province of eastern China. Zhuji is known as the “hometown of pearl,” according to Indy Asian American Times, because they are well known for their pearl production and freshwater pearl farms. Their output of freshwater pearls account for 74% worldwide and 84% nationwide.
The sister city signing took place on April 22, 2010 in Chicago.
Traci Lutton, vice president of economic development, who was in attendance at the meeting, says that they were able to set meetings with officials in China to talk about investment opportunities in the United States.
Lutton says that the reason why the sister city arrangement between Muncie and Zhuji was established was because it was part of their economic development strategy to attract foreign investment to the United States.
Lutton says that the council general shared with them that Zhuji was a city that was actively seeking a sister city.
In September 2013, economic development officials from Muncie embarked on a business marketing trip to the cities of Hangzhou and Zhuji City in China. They had meetings with business and government leaders.
Muncie Central High School and Zhuji Private High School, also known as Hailiang International School, signed a sister school cooperation agreement called “Memorandum of Understanding on Establishing a Sister School.” This outlines further cooperation between the two schools. It was on this delegation that the “Memorandum of Understanding on Establishing a Sister School” was signed. This whole relationship between Muncie and Zhuji is known as the “Asian Initiative.”
Brad Bookout, Director of Economic Development and Redevelopment, says the delegation visited with some manufacturers in Zhuji. The manufacturers in Zhuji helped them arrange meetings with companies who were operational in Zhuji, who thought that they might have some interest in setting up some operations in Muncie.
Local associations operate some of the sister city organizations, like a cultural center, museum, or chamber of commerce. Sister city organizations like the office of the mayor, office of international affairs, office of protocol, office of economic development, or office of tourism/convention and visitors bureau hold most of the municipal contacts, also from Sister Cities International.
Lutton says that the closest organization Muncie has to this would be the Muncie Delaware County Economic Development Alliance.
“It [the Asian Initiative]has been slow due to some of the differences and the tensions with the tariffs,” says Bookout. “The current commissioners in Delaware County have identified specific locations in Europe that are expanding rapidly to U.S. locations, and they’ve chosen to focus those efforts on international attraction more on Italy and Germany as compared to Asia at the current time period.”
Lutton says, “These agreements are typically very ceremonial in nature. They’re very brief and general, so you can be really flexible with it and you can pursue and grow these relationships significantly or not, and it seems as though historically many of these relationships, while maybe strong in the beginning, have sort of diminished.”
Lutton further explained that in order for sister cities to flourish, you have to go year after year to maintain those relationships or you else you will lose your traction.
Sister relationships need to be tended to and nurtured, otherwise they will slowly begin to fall apart.