Global Connections Solve Local Problems

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This post is part of a special series of blogs inspired by NLC’s annual Congress of Cities and related events such as the National Summit on Your City’s Families.

My smartphone informs me about typhoons in the Philippines as quickly as it does college basketball scores. Sitting in Seattle, at NLC’s annual Congress of Cities and Exposition, reminds me just how far many cities have progressed in their global connections. Technology may have helped advance these relationships, but it is leadership by individual elected officials that gives vision and substance to these relationships.

Since 1991, key leaders at the City of Seattle, the Port Authority, King County and the other large public and private-sector partners in the region have made use of the Greater Seattle Trade Development Alliance (TDA) to coordinate the region’s global outreach. TDA took on the tasks of both educating the region’s partners about global competitiveness but also helping to commercialize products and services from companies in the region. The model has been successfully replicated in many cities over the years.

At a meeting of NLC’s International Council, a feature presentation was made on the growth of Brazil as a global market and U.S. trading partner. One of the most dynamic economies of the BIC trio (Brazil, India, China), Brazil is a major competitor to U.S. agriculture exports but could be a major importer of goods and services to upgrade its infrastructure. While major initiatives are launched by the national government, so much of the innovation is the product of dynamic mayors in cities like Rio de Janeiro.

Local officials know from first-hand experience, or from well-honed instincts, that promising solutions to pressing city problems can originate from anywhere on the planet. During trade missions, attending international conferences, or leading a sister city delegation, American mayors and councilmembers have expertise to share and have a desire to learn from the experience of others. As an organization, NLC is blessed with leaders who have a considerable level of international experience and understanding.

Whether the goal is city solutions or simply the establishment of relationships, NLC has been and will continue to be engaged with peers in city government around the world. It is central to the NLC mission to highlight good local problem solving wherever we find it.