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July 5, 2016

Sister Cities Benefit Economy, Educational Experiences

By Vice Mayor Jack Sellers

In its earlier days, Chandler was a small farming community, known for its agricultural economic base. We began seeing high-tech and manufacturing companies call Chandler home in the 1980s, and over the years, the economic growth became more diverse – and more global. In 2008, the City of Chandler started developing a Sister City International relationship with Tullamore, Ireland.

Tullamore is located in the midlands of Ireland, and is the capital town of County Offaly. Much like Chandler, it serves a population of about 250,000 in a 30-mile radius and is home to major commercial and industrial companies that employ people from around the world. Early on, delegates from both cities met multiple times learning about each other’s economic development efforts and culture. In 2009, former Mayor Boyd Dunn signed the first Sister City Agreement with Tullamore.

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of visiting Tullamore and meeting its delegates and business leaders, while attending the 60th Annual Sister Cities Conference. Its County Innovation Centre, patterned after Gangplank located in downtown Chandler, offers space and support to start up and growing enterprises focusing on software, multimedia, renewable energies and new product development.

As we build these business partnerships with the vision of growing our economy, it’s also important to learn about the history and culture of Ireland. During my visit, I attended the official opening ceremony of the 1916 Commemorative Garden, celebrating the 100 years of Independence of Ireland. There also were many other sites toured, including the Birr Castle, Tour of Galway, Killeens of Shannonbridge and the Lough Boora Parklands. The history and scenery are magnificent.

There is a connection between economic growth, education and community involvement. The Chandler-Tullamore Sister Cities offer opportunities for people to get involved and learn more about history, culture, economic development and educational exchanges. Students have the opportunity to participate in the Student Ambassador Program, where lifetime experiences are created when Irish students visit Chandler and our students visit Tullamore. There also are opportunities to become a host family. These educational experiences can’t be taught out of a textbook!

Ellen Harrington, president of Chandler-Tullamore Sister Cities, states, "Sister Cities was started by President Eisenhower as an approach to world peace, where people around the world developed city-to-city relationships and agreed to work together on joint cultural and educational exchange projects.  Economic development always has been a part of the Sister Cities International overall program, and grew from the city-to-city relationships as people realized the benefits of doing business with other people that they like, respect and trust.  In addition to trade and tourism dollars, Sister City programs create connections with municipal officials and businesses, contributing to investments in the future of the communities.”

I believe in the relationships and collaborative projects that develop through Sister Cities programs. When our Chandler National Little League team visited Tainan, Taiwan, last year, the Mayor of Tainan invited us to become a Sister City with them. As the Chandler-Tullamore Sister Cities program continues to grow, I’m looking forward to creating other Sister Cities, including formalizing our relationship with Tainan soon. To learn more about Chandler-Tullamore Sister Cities, visit chandlerirish.org. Visit chandleraz.gov to watch the interview with Ellen Harrington on my “Chandler In Focus” show.