Lidköping and Rockford Celebrate Their Industrial Partnership 10 year Anniversary

Earlier today, May 26, 2016, an international press conference (via Skype) took place at the Rockford Area Economic Development Council. City of Rockford´s Mayor, Larry Morrissey, City of Lidköping´s Mayor, Kjell Hedvall (via Skype) and City of Lidköping & County of Skaraborg´s International Business Developer Linnea Bengtsson talked about the partnership´s history and successes.

The Industrial Partnership Agreement was first signed between the Mayor Lawrence Morrissey, City of Rockford and Mayor Kjell Hedvall, City of Lidköping, in August of 2006 at the Läckö Castle, Lidköping, Sweden. SwedishAmerican Chamber of Commerce (SACC) introduced the two cities. In 2011, the agreement was updated through a signing ceremony via Skype, between Mayor Lawrence Morrissey and Mayor Kjell Hedvall. In 2014 the agreement was updated and expanded and now includes the City of Lidköping and County of Skaraborg on the Swedish side and the City of Rockford, Winnebago County, SwedishAmerican Health System (Rockford, IL) and Sustain Dane (Madison, WI) on the U.S. side.

Linnea Bengtsson was the first ever International Business Development Trainee at the Rockford Area Economic Development Council, for eight month in 2008. In 2011, Mayor Hedvall, appointed Bengtsson to the unique position of International Business Developer. Bengtsson is alternating her time between her office at City Hall in Lidköping and her office at Rockford City Hall. Since 2014, the County of Skaraborg is funding half of Bengtsson´s position and the City of Lidköping the other half.

The press conference was attended via Skype by City of Lidköping´s Mayor, Kjell Hedvall; Vice Mayor Kajsa Ezelius; and Executive Director, Jan Fransson. On the Rockford side, Mayor Morrissey, International Business Developer Linnea Bengtsson, Mike Nicholas, President of the Rockford Area Economic Development Council and local media and community supporters attended. A virtual “high five” was performed by great teamwork by the two Mayors.

Though many cities have sister-city relationships, the Industrial Partnership Agreement is worldly unique. This agreement is more of an economic development tool, a navigation and networking tool that helps organizations and companies to grow locally by working globally.

 “We found it each other because we share the same view when it comes to the importance of global partners for local growth,” says Mayor Hedvall.

“The long term commitment Mayor Hedvall and the City of Lidköping has shown Rockford throughout these past ten years, has had an extremely positive impact on Rockford´s businesses and educational organizations,” says Mayor Morrissey.

“Businesses will go where the market is, but for competitive markets, an international partnership like this; that helps local companies navigate globally can be the break point for companies´ growth and community win,” says International Business Developer Bengtsson.

The main results of the partnership are job growth, joint ventures, educational partnerships and increased community wealth. Leading Edge Hydraulics in Rockford has added more than 25 jobs and built a new technical center as a direct result of partnering with Swedish hydraulic company CEJN AB in Skövde. For CEJN AB, an increased customer base has been gained. Other business results on the Swedish side are a local Black Smith entering the U.S. market, as she received her first U.S. export order and an agriculture business that has expanded their U.S. business by opening up a daughter company in Illinois. This agriculture business is currently in the process of hiring both in Sweden and in the U.S. Another small business that manufactures stone wool insulation cutting tables is also seeing great benefits and has exported about 20 tables to the U.S. On a tourism side, a sold out “Sweden Trip”, where more than 40 delegates from the Rockford Region and Madison area travelled to Sweden, led to two tourism companies signing a formal partnership. Several additional business introductions were made, providing needed resources to numerous companies, which aligns with what the partnership aims to do, assist local companies to navigate globally.

About 100 students from Sweden has been part of various creative international educational projects and partnerships with community and educational organizations in Rockford. In Lidköping, the educational partnerships with Rockford organizations has led to attracting more students to vocational construction and nursing programs, which also means economic gain and investment in it´s workforce pipeline. An educational agreement has been signed between Rockford University and University of Skövde, allowing students to study abroad at respective intuitions, tuition free. Approximately $ 50.000 has been secured by grants from the Swedish Government for these educational partnerships. The partnership has also generated jobshadowing of teachers and fire fighters. Several best practices exchanges and study visits within the sustainability field have taken place as well.

For More Information
Linnea Bengtsson
International Business Developer, City of Lidköping & County of Skaraborg, Sweden  815 985 3895