Kudos to any Indianapolis resident who can name the city's eight international sister cities — bonus points to those who have benefited from the foreign relations that appear to be multiplying in the Hoosier capital.
For those yet to get connected, a cultural street festival of international significance is set to showcase some of the burgeoning bonds stretching from the heart of Indy to cities in Asia, Europe and South America.
From a world sports park (featuring European football, Gaelic sports and cricket, among others) and a variety of ethnic booths to a kids' carnival and adult beverages — not to mention the massive dance party that promises to erupt once Dehli 2 Dublin takes the stage (see sidebar) — the inaugural Indianapolis Sister Cities International Festival, organized by the Mayor's Office of International and Cultural Affairs, has got all the right ingredients to show the world — once again — that Indy knows how to have a good time.
The offerings promise to be rich and diverse — a metaphor for the fruitful diplomacy Hoosiers have been cultivating for years.
Indy's sisterhood with Taipei, Taiwan, in 1978 marked its first connection established through Sister Cities International, a nonprofit inspired by President Dwight Eisenhower's desire for decreased war through increased civilian diplomacy, which has connected more than 2,5000 communities in 135 countries.
A decade later, in 1988, Indy extended a special handshake to Cologne, Germany. It took eight years to add Monza, Italy, to the group and then seven years for Piran, Slovenia, which connected with Indy as a sister city in 2001.
Mayor Greg Ballard, influenced in no small part by his days in the U.S. Marines, made the cultivation of international relationships one of the leading priorities of his administration. He added four new sister cities to Indianapolis' network in two years, focusing on areas that seemed to offer potential for mutual economic benefits, such as Hyderabad, India, which became a sister in 2010. Ballard led a trade mission to Hyderabad in June.
Building direct relationships around the globe appears to be paying off for Indiana. The state ranks No. 1 in North America for attracting jobs through foreign direct investment with more than 15,800 news jobs and $8 billion invested through such channels since 2005, according to the mayor's office.
"This festival gives us the opportunity to highlight and enhance our global reach," Ballard said in a news release announcing the event.
In Indianapolis alone, the city counts more than 500 foreign companies representing 36 different countries. Foreign students attending the state's universities add an estimated $500 million to the Indiana economy, further emphasizing the importance of strong international relations.
"Mayor Ballard wants Indianapolis to be welcoming and inclusive to all the people who live here," said Jane Gehlhausen, the city's director of international and cultural affairs.
Moving forward, the city's central committee of sister cities and the mayor's office plan to find new ways to connect Indy to global opportunities for friendship, education and business. Usually committees are comprised of about 25 volunteers, but Hangzhou's has 100 members.
"We're always open to having more people join," Gehlhausen said.***
The city's central committee of sister cities welcomes community input. Just call the Office of International and Cultural Affairs at 327-3145 or email the individual city committee of interest: Campinas@indy.gov; Cologne@indy.gov; Hangzhou@indy.gov; Hyderabad@indy.gov; Monza@indy.gov;Piran@indy.gov; firstname.lastname@example.org; or Taipei@indy.gov.