Establishing Taizhou as Fort Wayne’s fourth sister city

On May 10, 2012, the cities of Fort Wayne and Taizhou signed an agreement making Taizhou, China the fourth sister city of Fort Wayne, Indiana. The process in establishing the fourth sister city had many twists and turns: it spanned over three years, involved courting by two Chinese cities and a mayoral election. Many people were involved in the process.

DECISIVE MOVES IN THE MIDDLE STAGE: THE YEAR OF 2011

A. Mayor Henry’s Speech for the Chinese New Year
The Chinese Lunar New Year comes after the Solar New Year. As a matter of fact, many presidents of countries worldwide, including the U.S., have given special speeches for the Chinese New Year. Since the setting up a sister city with a Chinese city was beginning, the Fort Wayne Chinese community needed to become a part of the process.

Founded in 1991, the Fort Wayne Chinese Family and Friend Association (FWCFFA) http://fortwaynechinese.org/ gather to celebrate the Chinese New Year every year. FWCFFA sent an invitation to Mayor Henry for the Chinese New Year.

On February 5, 2011, Mayor Henry spoke at the Chinese New Year celebration attended by over 350 people. Mayor Henry gave his Chinese New Year greetings in a speech, and he introduced the progress on the development of the sister city.

This was the first time in Fort Wayne Chinese history that the mayor of Fort Wayne participated in the Chinese New Year party. Many people heard about a possible sister city in China for the first time at the party. In response to the news, the Chinese community showed enthusiasm and support for a sister city relationship.

In November 2010, the governor of Indiana visited Zhejiang province in China, the sister province of Indiana since 1987. John Sampson (John), the CEO of Northeast Indiana Regional Partners, was one of the delegation members. During this visit, he received words that the city of Taizhou was interested in forming a sister city relationship with Fort Wayne. 

B. Fort Wayne Delegation from SCI visited Huai’an
During two mayor’s meeting on July 14th, Mayor Gao had given an invitation to Mayor Henry for an international friendship city conference in Huai’an from September 21st to the 23rd in 2011. This invitation stated that Huai’an would cover all accommodation costs when the delegation arrived in Huai’an.

In the FWSCI board meeting on August 3rd, the board approved to send a delegation to Huai'an. President Tom Herr appointed board member Renee Riecke as the delegation head to go to Huai'an. Board member Jenning Li (Jianning Li) organized this delegation, obtained visas and made the travel arrangements.

The delegation was composed of Renee; Cheryl L. Ferverda, a manger of Allen County Public Library; Karl R. LaPan, CEO of the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center; Noel Knox, Sister Cities International Board of Director; Deb Neumeyer, principal of Carroll High School; Stan Podzielinksi, Sister Cities International Board of Director; Eugenia Podzielinski; Craig Podzielinski; and Jenning Li.

During the three days in Huai’an, the delegation participated in a Forum on Eco-Economy & Cooperation among Friendly Cities. Renee and city representatives signed the Signature of the Joint Declaration. They visited the Huai’an Urban Planning Museum, the Journey to the West Museum, the Huaiyang Cuisine Museum and the Canal Transportation Museum. They also visited the Former Residence of Mr. Zhou Enlai, the Huai’an Steel & Iron Group, the Qingjiang Middle School, the Experimental Primary School and the College Park. One evening, they attended a gala comparable to the opening ceremony of 2008 Beijing Olympics.

C. Mayor’s Delegation Visited Taizhou. 
From November 13th to the 20th of 2011, Mayor Henry led the delegation of 9 people to visit Taizhou. There, he signed the Letter of Intent with the Vice Mayor Zhao of Taizhou. The delegation members included board members Tom Herr, Song Cai and business men Rick Briley, Jerry Henry, Walt Fuller, and Steve McElhoe.

D. Taizhou Educational Delegation Visited Fort Wayne
With assistance from Dennis Kelly of Pacific World Trade and their office in Hangzhou, China, Taizhou sent an educational delegation to Fort Wayne from December 7 to the 9 in 2011.

The delegation consisted of 5 members: Xu Linde, Vice Chairman of People's Political Consultative Conference of Taizhou; Lu Zhenxing, Vice President of Taizhou International Culture Exchanges Association; and three principals from high schools and middle schools in Taizhou.

The delegates from Taizhou visited Canterbury School, Blackhawk School, New Tech Academy and the Viking New Tech in Fort Wayne area. The City of Fort Wayne and FWSCII hosted dinners for the guests.

E. Signing the Sister City Agreements 
In March of 2012, Taizhou sent a delegation to Fort Wayne to sign a sister city agreement. The FWSCII voted and approved Taizhou as Fort Wayne’s fourth sister city during the meeting of the board of directions in May 2012.

On May 10, 2012, the formal sister city agreement was signed in Mayor Henry’s office with Mayor Henry, Tom Herr, Xue Xianchu and Xiang Wenmin signing their names on the agreement. About 70 Fort Wayne local community leaders were present at the signing ceremony. The news was broadcasted via local newspapers, radio, and television channels.

Also present for the signing ceremony were most of FWSCII board members, Mike Landram, Dennis, Ren Yuan (FAO from Zhejiang Province), Samuel Krouse (Indiana State Department of Agriculture), Brook Steed (Indiana Economic Development Corporation), Joey Cochran, Sarah Rodriguez, Richard Lou, Yanni Qu, David Liu, Julia Zhu, Tom Dannenfelser, Jun Ma.

Besides the signing ceremony, the delegation also held a formal meeting with Mayor Henry and visited Canterbury School, Northeast Indiana Innovation Center, and Parkview Hospital. John Sampson arranged a meeting to let the delegation talked with local business leaders in the Innovation Center.

The City of Fort Wayne and the FWSCII hosted a dinner. The two delegations exchanged gifts. Dorothy Kittaka prepared gifts for FWSCII to give to Taizhou delegates. Song Cai and Jenning Li discussed future exchange plans with Xiang Wenmin after the dinner.

The signing of the agreement was a success. It is just the first step of a long journey. Both cities will orchestrate more exchanges promoting our respective economies, schools, hospitals, culture and sports in the future.

The economical connection between two cities is one of the most important parts for sister city relationship in the current global economy. From the beginning of the program, Mayor Henry had emphasized it as a dominate factor.

F. Educational Connections
Maple Creek Middle School has signed sister school relationship with Shenyang No. 134 Middle School in China. Students and teachers from both schools have visited each other’s schools.

DeKalb Middle School and Baiyun Middle School from Taizhou signed the letter of intent in leading to future sister schools on May 8, 2012. Country Meadow Elementary School in DeKalb county has a sister school in Taizhou area.

Fort Wayne North Side High School teaches Chinese language and has signed a sister school agreement with Xinhe High School, Taizhou City, P.R. China.