“Exchange” was the buzzword of the evening as Nuremberg and Atlanta celebrated 20 years of sister-city partnership Monday with the visit of a delegation focused on ratcheting up the business side of their relationship.
During a reception held at Arnall Golden Gregory LLP, a moment of silence was held for the 11 congregants killed in the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting just a day earlier, nodding to the shared heritage of civil and human rights that forms the basis of the cities’ ties.
Nuremberg, home to the Nazi party rally grounds and known globally for landmark trials condemning war criminals after World War II, has aimed to refashion itself into a champion of inclusion and dialogue. Atlanta’s role in the civil rights movement gave the two sides a starting point for talks in the mid-1990s.
Flash forward 20 years since the 1998 signing of their agreement, and Nuremberg is arguably the most active international partner among Atlanta’s 18 sister cities.
Their relationship has even served as a model to others, according to the president of Sister Cities International, who came down from Washington for the celebration.
“This is a very real relationship that we know is very relevant. It’s making a difference in our lives now,” said Roger-Mark De Souza in brief remarks.
While cultural and educational exchanges underwritten by the cities themselves have continued, the breadth of the partnership has taken on a life of its own outside government sponsorship.
In Nuremberg, the government still plays a key role in funding exchanges, but on the Atlanta side they largely rely on the German-American Cultural Foundation, which is funded by donations from German companies operating in Atlanta, including Porsche Cars North America, Mercedes-Benz USA and more.
“We realized, at least in Atlanta, that if we’re going to bring programs off the ground, without corporate partnerships we just can’t do it,” said Teri Simmons, an AGG immigration lawyer who formerly chaired the Atlanta Sister Cities Commission.
Using the sister-city ties as the basis for more business was a key focus of the event. The founders of IK Hoffman, a Nuremberg-based staffing agency with offices in Atlanta, made the trans-Atlantic trek, while representatives sent by the city were heavily focused on economic engagement.
The group arrived last weekend in time for the 40th anniversary gala of the German-American Chamber of Commerce of the Southern U.S., a key event in what is becoming a year of reflection on German-American ties.
On Oct. 3, the German Foreign Ministry launched DeutschlandJahr (German Year) in the U.S., which will put on hundreds of events across the country aimed at bringing the bilateral relationship to rank-and-file Americans under the theme “Wunderbar Together.” A launch event in Atlanta Oct. 5 included a light show by German artists Urbanscreen that played out against the side of the Bauhaus-style Atlanta-Fulton Central Library building downtown.
Michael Fraas, Nuremberg’s deputy mayor for economic affairs, said exchanges at the local level are all the more important in a time of turbulence for international relations. Next time, he said, the city would bring more than the 12 people who journeyed to Atlanta.
“Even in difficult times we have to cooperate, we have to work together, especially on this local and regional level. It’s very important,” he said.
Nuremberg subsidiaries operating in Atlanta like IK Hoffman, tradeshow operator NürnbergMesse, factory machinery maker Baumüller Nuermont Corp. and consultancy Rödl & Partner USA form a firm foundation.
But Mr. Fraas said there is much more to be done. A strategic plan for his metropolitan region created 10 years ago almost reads right out of Atlanta’s playbook in terms of industry focus: IT, automation, health, new materials, automotive, logistics, environment/energy. A new technical university is also on the horizon in a city with 10 existing schools.
“It’s really very similar to Atlanta, and I think there is an opportunity for all of us to deepen this cooperation and do more,” Mr. Fraas said.
Benjamin Bauer agreed, saying he found a strong appetite for collaboration while visiting the Atlanta Tech Village and the Advanced Technology Development Center at Georgia Tech.
Mr. Bauer runs Zollhof, a new incubator housed in an old customs house in Nuremberg. Much like Atlanta’s tech centers, Zollhof helps foster collaborations between startups and the local offices of German multinationals like Adidas or Siemens. Zollhof also has a strong focus on urban mobility and fintech, and it has been designated by Germany’s federal government as a center of excellence for digital health initiatives. Atlanta bills itself as a health care IT hub.
“The industry verticals we have in Nuremberg are kind of the same,” Mr. Bauer told Global Atlanta.
Nuremberg also has an answer to Atlanta’s Ponce City Market: The Quelle building is Germany’s second largest, now largely vacant thanks to the downfall of the European mail-order retailer. It has become a hub for creatives as it awaits comprehensive redevelopment.
On the Georgia side, representatives from the Georgia Department of Economic Development and the Metro Atlanta Chamber were on hand at the reception to mark the occasion, including Georgia’s top investment recruiter based in Munich, Germany, Sergio Domingues.
Still, even as business has become central to the cities’ dialogue, it hasn’t totally usurped the role of cultural exchange.
Nuremberg annually sends its Christkind, a young woman selected out of thousands of applicants, to open the Atlanta German Christmas Market, which is around the corner once again. Every other year, Nuremberg’s human rights award winner is given space to present at Atlanta’s National Center for Civil and Human Rights.
Meanwhile student exchanges carry on, forging relationships that serve as the basis for long-term collaboration.
A delegation of high-school-age members of the KeyClub Nürnberg, a leadership organization not affiliated with the international society with a similar name, were recognized at the reception.
They’re here under a grant partially funded by the DeutschlandJahr, with an itinerary organized by former Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves, who has taken students to Nuremberg under his Global Youth Ambassadors Program.
For Jakub Venzke, the trip was a chance to scope out potential universities. The first-year college student hopes to eventually study computer science in the U.S. He was captivated by Atlanta’s hiphop culture.
Julia Trinnes, 17, was most impacted by a hands-on workshop with Atlanta photographer Joshua Rashaad McFadden, and by how different the city was from rural Oregon, where she spent a year living on an earlier exchange program.
“Atlanta is just so far from that. It is a business-focused city that has developed a lot over the last couple of years, and that is absolutely visible throughout the city. It’s stunning, really.”
The openness of Americans was at the top of the list for Nicolas Vogt, also 17, who was visiting the U.S. for the first time.
“I’ve always been interested in relations with other countries,” he told Global Atlanta at the event. “But now, when you meet so many people like at this gathering, it really motivates you.”
See coverage of Atlanta’s 20-year history of relations with Nuremberg in the Global Atlanta archives: www.globalatlanta.com/?s=nuremberg
Or for a comprehensive look based on this reporter’s on the ground experience during an exchange program in Nuremberg, read: Atlanta, Meet Nuremberg, Your German Sister
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