Akron and the Sifang District of Qingdao, China are now partners in the fields of science, education, culture, health, sports and tourism after Akron City Council President Marco Sommerville and Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert Bowman reached a cooperative-city agreement with Qingdao Director Fengli Li during a city business trip to China.
Sommerville and Bowman were attending a conference on a Rubber Valley initiative being launched Qingdao. The initiative was inspired by Akron's reputation as the center of the U.S. rubber industry. Qingdao officials want to create a similar cluster of industry, education and research in rubber and polymers.
Through the cooperative-city agreement, Qingdao hopes to build greater relations with Akron's government, companies and educational institutions.
Efforts to establish a sister-city relationship with Qingdao began at the 2006 International Tire Exposition Conference when Akron representatives met with officials of the company Qingdao Mesnac, a tire machinery supplier to Goodyear in China. Representatives of the China Rubber Association also suggested a possible "sister city" relationship at a meeting in Beijing later that year.
"We are trying to find companies in China that want to make a soft landing in America - successful companies that would like to start manufacturing and supplying products in our market," said Sommerville. "The ultimate goal is to spur economic development and job creation in Akron."
Sommerville said that while in China, he met with two other companies that also may be future candidates for setting up new U.S. operations in Akron.