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Distant Neighbors: Close Economic Partnership With Swedish Community Leads To Trade Success


“There's a motto I go by: Grow Locally By Working Globally,” says Linnea Bengtsson. Her method is certainly working for Rockford and her home city of Lidköping, located in central southern Sweden.

Lidköping and Rockford signed an industrial partnership agreement in 2006 designed to reduce trade barriers and increase the exchange of ideas and educational opportunities. In 2014 the agreement was extended to 2016 and expanded to include 15 municipalities of the Skaraborg Kommunalförbund (the Swedish equivalent of a county) and the 16 municipalities of Winnebago County. Bengtsson is employed by Lidköping's government as an International Business Developer and says the relationship between the two cities is unique.

“The partnership is not a typical sister city relationship,” she says. “It's much more aggressive and business-focused.”

The agreement has led to a number of exchanges and partnerships:

  • Various groups from Lidköping, including nursing students,firefighters and elementary school teachers, have crossed the Atlantic to observe the practices of their counterparts in Rockford.
  • Winnebago County has signed an energy collaboration agreement with Lidköping to facilitate the exchange of ideas between Swedish innovators and researchers such as those at Freedom Field Renewable Energy.
  • In what Bengtsson says is her favorite project, 48 Lidköping high school students joined students from Rockford East High School in building three houses as part of SwedishAmerican Foundation's Home Ownership Program. The houses are part of the Foundation's effort to improve the neighborhood around SwedishAmerican Hospital. The first house is built to U.S. Standards, the second house is Swedish influenced, and the third is built according to Swedish Standards. One American architect has described the house as “the most important green house in America.”
  • Leading Edge Hydraulics credits its partnership with CEJN Inc. of Skövde with allowing it to more than double its workforce and open a new 65,000 square foot facility. Leading Edge, CEJN and Manuli Hydraulics of Italy work jointly to offer pre-assembled hydraulic components so customers don't have to order parts from multiple vendors, saving them time and labor.

Bengtsson says she has found Rockford to be a wonderful place to do business and expects the special relationship to grow stronger.

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