Sister Cities International Announces Winners of 2016 Annual Awards for Innovation in Economic Development

WASHINGTON, DC – The 2016 Sister Cities Innovation Award for Economic Development recognizes the accomplishments of outstanding community and individual sister city programs that work to promote peace through mutual respect, understanding, and cooperation.

The award was given to sister city organizations from cities in three different population categories. The City of Monterey, California won for a city with a population less than 100,000; Birmingham Sister Cities (BSC) of Birmingham, Alabama won for cities with population between 100,000 and 300,000; and Baltimore Sister Cities International (BSCI) of Baltimore, Maryland won for cities with population greater than 500,000.

Monterrey was awarded for its involvement in helping to organize the inaugural Dubrovnik Half Marathon in 2015. The race had nearly 500 participants representing 40 countries and 480 volunteers took part in multi-day festivities. The marathon was created with the goal of diversifying tourism in non-summer months, as a source of local well-being, and a means of expanding the city’s economic base. 

BSC won for two economic initiatives that it started in 2015: a sister cities partnership with Liverpool, United Kingdom and an EB-5 visa program. The relationship with Liverpool began at the bi-annual International Forum for Business, where Birmingham’s Mayor was a presenter. Invest Liverpool and Birmingham’s business incubator, Innovation Depot, found several ways to collaborate between the cities, including a partnership between two Birmingham’s universities (University of Alabama-Birmingham and Samford University) and Liverpool Hope University in Liverpool. 

Since beginning their sister cities partnership in 2015, the Birmingham and Liverpool have also started an EB-5 visa program as a way to attract investors to Birmingham and to fund the program. Foreign investors who finance projects with a value of $500,000 or more and who produce jobs for three years in low-income areas can qualify for family Green Cards. This program will be used by BSC to attract business investors from their sister city nations and the rest of the world to partner with local businesses and spur development in low income/high unemployment areas. As a result of this program, a large multi-national Liverpool based bio-science firm will be opening an office in Birmingham and a local Birmingham business has opened a new UK office in Liverpool.

BSCI won for hosting a 20-person delegation from Xiamen, China in Baltimore to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the sister cities partnership between the two cities. The delegation promoted the China International Fair for Investment and Trade (CIFIT) and was led by Xiamen Vice Mayor Li Dongliang. During their stay in Baltimore, Xiamen signed a Memorandum of Understanding with City Hall that reaffirmed their sister city relationship and a Letter of Intent between Baltimore Polytechnic Institute and Xiamen Information School to work together towards a summer exchange program with the Xiamen Summer Camp. The Baltimore-Xiamen Sister City relationship has been their most active city in business development and education exchanges.

SCI’s Annual Awards are awarded in several categories including Best Overall, Innovation (Arts and Culture, Economic Development, Humanitarian Assistance, and Youth and Education), and Volunteer of the Year. Award winners will be honored at the Lou Wozar Diplomatic Awards Dinner on Saturday, July 16 during SCI’s 60th Anniversary Celebration in Washington, DC. 

SCI’s 60th anniversary celebration will include an Annual Conference and Youth Leadership Summit in Washington, DC July 13-16, 2016. The celebration will bring together hundreds of the most influential global leaders in diplomacy, foreign affairs, policy, business, and innovation. Elected and municipal officials, business leaders, youth delegates, and citizen diplomats will discuss this year’s theme “Peace through People,” building on President Eisenhower’s initial vision of creating a more peaceful world by building global relationships. 

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About Sister Cities International 

Founded as a Presidential Initiative by Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956, Sister Cities International serves as the national membership organization for 570 member communities with 2,300 partnerships in 150 countries on six continents. The sister city network unites tens of thousands of citizen diplomats and volunteers who work tirelessly to promote the organizations’ mission of creating world peace and understanding through economic development, youth and education, arts and culture, and humanitarian assistance. 

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