The Atlanta Sister Cities Commission has launched a new website and charitable foundation as it redirects its focus toward economic development.
Long seen as solely an instrument for cultural and student exchange, the volunteer commission has been directed by Mayor Kasim Reed to pursue investment and trade ties with the 18 cities where it currently has tie-ups.
Recent strides include a startup exchange with Toulouse, France, and a study estimating that the current relationships benefit the city to the tune of $84 million, when travel spending and broader impacts are taken into account.
Minimal funding from the city has long been a challenge for the commission, which is currently chaired by Shelby Grubbs, executive director of the Atlanta Center for International Arbitration and Mediation.
While Mr. Reed hinted at the organization’s recent winter party that the city could increase its funding, the foundation was needed to raise donations from outside companies and individuals who value the on-the-ground diplomacy these relationships represent.
And while the volunteer committees for each city relationship are still very active, many of them have been rejuvenated with new leadership. The commission itself also has a new structure, with three mayoral appointees including Mr. Grubbs; Farah Amir, executive director of the Georgia Council for International Visitors, and Ember Bishop, former deputy commissioner for international relations for the Georgia Department of Economic Development.
The new website lists all the committee leads, from Ancient Olympia, Greece and Cotonou, Benin, to Taipei, Taiwan, and Tbilisi, Georgia. It also includes summaries of the relationship with each of the 18 cities and a list of upcoming events. A history of the city’s tie-ups shows how they go back to 1967, when the first deal was struck with Salzburg, Austria, the home of Mozart.
Visit the site at www.atlsistercities.org.