By Barney Blakeney
Two weeks ago Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg and city council agreed in principle to develop a second ‘sister city” relationship. This time the relationship will be coupled with Panama City, Panama in Central America. Charleston currently is sister city to Spoleto, Italy. It’s a relationship that spawned the annual Spoleto Arts Festival which last year brought in about $43 million to the local economy. I asked local officials how a similar relationship with Panama City would impact local Black businesses.
“In order to be competitive in an increasingly global economy, we must expand our partnerships with cities around the world,” said Tecklenburg at the Oct. 27 agreement signing. “Signing this Charleston Sister Cities International agreement creates a platform for strengthening the existing economic, cultural and educational relationships with Panama City while committing to explore new ties and creative ways to improve the quality of life for residents of both cities.”
Last week, a delegation from the Panama Embassy to the United States of America hosted by Charleston Sister Cities International arrived in Charleston to attend the S.C. International Trade Conference. During their visit, they met with leaders across a variety of industries including trade, economic development, cultural affairs, hospitality and education.
The Charleston Sister Cities International agreement commits both cities to identifying activities that can generate new initiatives to further nurture economic-based relationships, as well as: 1) promoting both cities to their respective business, technology and academic sectors as locations for trade and development, 2) facilitating trade missions and business-to-business dialogue between the two cities, 3) exploring and encouraging cooperation and exchange between local development agencies, Chamber of Commerce and tourism bodies, 4) helping facilitate faith-based exchanges between faith leaders in both cities, 5) promoting mutual leisure and business tourism opportunities, encouraging cultural and humanitarian exchange and 6) exploring joint venture policy development and sharing of best practices in the field of urban development, regeneration and transportation.
Charleston Sister City International President and CEO Neita Wiese spent several days with the delegation. She said, “I do believe that there exists potential for economic opportunities for minority entrepreneurs through Charleston Sister Cities International – international trade/technology, educational, and cultural programs and exchanges.”
Charleston Sister Cities International is a member of Sister Cities International, founded by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956. Their mission is to globally promote the Charleston region and enrich our community’s international understanding through cultural, educational, humanitarian and trade missions to partners abroad – contributing to a more peaceful and prosperous world.