Two great cities – Chicago and Birmingham – are joining forces in celebration this week. Jon Perks, in the Windy City, reports on the partnership.
Birmingham’s relationship with Chicago is one to be proud of, says Clive Dutton, Director of Planning and Regeneration for Birmingham City Council.
Mr Dutton, one of the Birmingham delegation here in Chicago for the week-long Sister Cities International Festival, says the similarities and great relations between the two conurbations have helped develop one of the strongest bonds between any of the US city’s 27 ‘sisters’.
“The mantra is we have so much in common; this is my third visit to Chicago and it feels like coming home to a very proud, welcoming and proud city, and I would like to think that Birmingham is a very true and proud partner,” he told a joint Workforce Best Practice Session.
Earlier, Mr Dutton told The Birmingham Post: “We have seen just how seriously the city of Chicago considers its relationship with the city of Birmingham; it has a number of sister city relationships, but the energy and commitment they put into the Birmingham one reflects really well on our reputation.
"I came out with the leader in 2005 and really the agenda was to reawaken the relationship with Chicago – not that it had been allowed to wane, but I think there’s a recognition both by Mayor Daley and Mike Whitby that if a relationship’s worth having you’ve got to put energy into it.
On Monday, Mr Dutton and the delegation, which also includes John Clements from Aston Pride, Michael Kilduff from the Learning & Skills Council and Lyndley Jenks from Jobcentre Plus, visited a number of businesses across Chicago, a diverse selection including a gears manufacturer, cheesecake maker and a social enterprise program which has found jobs for over 1,000 ex-offenders.
“Chicago may be nine times bigger than us, about the size of London, but they want to engage and learn from Birmingham, which is fantastic,” he added.
“In many of the meetings that we have had we see the same issues that they’re trying to tackle, whether it’s the global impact of economics or regeneration... everywhere is facing the same challenges; they certainly look to us as having a track record of responding in quite a resilient way to economic changes.
“Cultural and educational exchanges tend to be the core of many sister city relationships and the decision was ‘let’s take it onto another level’; if we can bring back greater benefit for the Birmingham people, bring business back, then it’s a good thing.”
Mr Dutton is among the ‘Team Birmingham’ group in Chicago as part of the week of sister city celebrations; as well as a busy schedule of forums, the delegation will also front tomorrow’s Birmingham Day at the Sister Cities International Festival in Daley Plaza.