I was so pleased to assist in the launching on September 3rd in the newest partnership between two innovative and dynamic cities: Austin, Texas and Luleå, Sweden. I have spent time in both, and while they couldn’t be more geographically different, they share the same exciting buzz of communities on an upward trajectory. I lived in Austin for a summer and grew to deeply love the Hill Country and Lake Travis. Since becoming Ambassador to Sweden, I have visited Luleå on multiple occasions and truly enjoy the beauty of Luleå’s tranquil pine forests and picturesque Gammalstad (Old Town) on the banks of the Lule River.
Such alliances between municipalities form the strong backbone of the U.S.-Swedish relationship, and the people-to-people relationships, business networks, cross investment, artistic collaboration, and educational alliances crafted through these affiliations anchor the framework of how our two societies interact. Building foreign relations is not the sole prerogative of national level governments – in fact, it actually works better when individual people and communities are knit together through the type of alliances that Luleå and Austin have committed to. And in today’s digital word, geographic distance plays only a negligible role in these two cities’ ability to network and collaborate in a myriad of ways. We are only limited by our imaginations.
What experience has shown is that the most successful city partnerships are those based on similar interests and shared values. In this regard, I can’t think of two cities that are more suitably linked. Both Austin and Luleå are thriving centers for innovation: Austin consistently ranks among the most innovative communities in the U.S., and Luleå – home to Facebook’s first European data center and the Node Pole – is rapidly becoming a tech hub of Europe. On the arts front, Austin has made a name for itself through its defining music scene and SXSW, an annual music, film, and interactive conference. Likewise, Luleå has vibrant live music scene and the Luleå Culture House dedicated to the advancement of the arts. And for education and research, the two cities are top in their class. University of Texas at Austin consistently ranks among the top public schools in the U.S., and Luleå’s University of Technology – Scandinavia’s northernmost school of technology – is rapidly making a name for its applied research and world-class collaboration with national and international companies. Such similarities can be found across the spectrum of the two cities’ multifaceted characters.
Like all city partnerships, success is fueled by individual relationships. Knowing the pioneering, vibrant, and warmhearted people of both Austin and Luleå, I can only begin to imagine the directions and possibilities of this new partnership. As with all U.S.-Swedish municipal partnerships, I and the rest of the U.S. Embassy team in Stockholm stand prepared to support and assist as needed. I wish Austin and Luleå every success in their new alliance together.