In Tallahassee, Green Energy Collaboration Sprouts a Thriving Sister City Relationship

Just two years old, the sister city relationship between Tallahassee, Florida and Rugao, China has already established several business, education, and media connections. 

The genesis of the sister city partnership lies in green energy. Impressed by the technological innovations of Tallahassee-based Bing Energy, the city of Rugao agreed to invest $9 million in the company. With a business connection in place, the two cities envisioned further cooperation in other areas. As a result, the Tallahassee-Rugao sister city partnership was formed in 2011 with an aim to develop long-term education, economic, and cultural initiatives, and to strengthen the relationship between the two cities. Tallahassee Mayor John Marks traveled to Rugao for the official signing in October 2011. The day of the signing is now “Rugao Day” in Tallahassee.

Since then, both cities have had several visiting delegations, most recently in March 2013. Delegates from Rugao Mr. Yao Shi, Party Secretary of the Rugao People’s Congress, Mr. Jianping Cui, Rugao Director of Foreign Affairs and Overseas Chinese Office, Mr. Lucky Ni, Vice Director of Rugao Economic Development Zone Management Committee, and Mr. Jin Zhang, President of the Rugao Culture and Broadcasting Group visited Tallahassee for a busy two days. The delegation explored cooperation opportunities and revisited companies with whom Rugao had already connected. Eager to explore innovations in information and broadcasting, the delegation visited the local WCTV, the Tallahassee Democrat, and met with representatives from the Moore Communications Group. They delegation also had an opportunity to meet with Mayor John Marks at City Hall.

In addition to business and media, the sister city relationship has also focused on strengthening educational ties. In 2012, Tallahassee Community College and Tianjin Foreign Studies University (TFSU) worked on a joint project to create strategies to import certain Florida fruits into China and develop a business model to increase tourism along Florida’s Emerald Coast. The winners of the competition were two students from TFSU, who traveled to Tallahassee earlier this year to present their winning business plan to the director of the Florida Department of Agriculture and the South Okaloosa County Tourism Board, and even the Florida’s House of Representatives’ Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee.

The sister cities have several projects planned for this year. Florida A&M University (FAMU) Strikers will have the unique opportunity to perform in Rugao in October for the city’s culture fair. The local Tallahassee Leon High School is discussing opportunities for its students and those from Rugao to interact with each other and collaborate on art history and calligraphy lessons via Skype and build a web portal to share art work. Tallahassee’s Benedict Engineering Company, TimberSIL, Bing Energy, and Nopetro will continue to collaborate with their Chinese counterparts, who are looking to partner with technology companies working to improve and develop innovative products.

Following the Rugao delegation’s visit earlier this year, the sister cities continue to work on strengthening their partnership. Wing Chan, Vice Chairman of Tallahassee-Rugao Sister City Program, said, “[The delegation’s] enthusiasm to deepen and broaden our sister city relationship motivates us to facilitate future communication and delegation trips and to see collaboration initiatives turn into results.”