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A good day at George Washington's olde English family home | UK news

Category: Education
Published on Wednesday, 22 February 2012 Written by Super User
George Washington

Well done, everyone. He'd surely be pleased that his north eastern links are helping the recovery of lost supermarket trolleys. Photograph: Getty Images

Northern England's links with the United States, which include the gift to the world of Wrigley's chewing gum, have been mightily emphasised today in Sunderland.

The city on the Wear has its own special Friendship Agreement with Washington DC, the only non-capital city in the world to do so. An uneven match? Not at all. Without Sunderland and area, there might never have been George Washington.

Hence the ceremonies at his family's old home, Washington Old Hall, which is very much worth a visit. While the British Embassy in Washington hosted a reception to mark the renewal of of the agreement, local people got together at the Wearside end to do their bit as well.

Encouragingly, for those who expect such things to be the preserve of people my age, the programme was much enlivened by young people. David Crone, chair of Sunderland youth parliament, read the American declaration of independence (the model for northern England's forthcoming breakaway), Lauren Waine of Monkwearmouth school sang the American national anthem and Martyn Foster from Broadway junior school read Martin Luther's eloquent speech, I have a dream.

Pupils from George Washington primary school joined in as well, before the Mayor of Sunderland – let's hope it becomes a Lord Mayoralty soon, now that the place is a city – Coun Norma Wright concluded proceedings.

There is a practical point to all the fun and games (and useful history). Contemporary Sunderland is famous for its links with Japan, through the Nissan plant, but are many American business connections as well.

A good day at George Washington's olde English family home | UK news Sunderland university; breeding ground for future job creators. Photograph: Richard Rayner/North News & Pictures

United States firms account for one of the biggest shares of local inward investment, such as the Lear Corporation which is launching a new production plant at Rainton Bridge, creating 300 jobs. The TRW Automotive company already employs the same number at its steering systems plant, which was opened in 1989.

Looking the other way, the Sunderland firm SaleCycle, which recovers abandoned shopping trolleys online, has a sales office on the edge of Washington DC. At the small business level, Phil Vickery, one of Wearside's glass artists who cluster round the National Glass Centre, has found the Friendship Agreement more than just a twinning symbol.

He told the Old Hall get-together:

We need to keep doing this to form long-term relationships with US buyers. I have made strong contacts and captured opportunities that have led to friendships and being able to sell directly to the US market. Without this help it would be just about impossible for people like me to break into the US market.

Dominic Edmunds, founder and managing director of SaleCycle said:

We have recruited US staff, opened our office and generated sales directly into the US market. The good relationship which Sunderland has established with Washington DC was instrumental in all of this. Without the city council's connections it would have been much more difficult and taken far longer to achieve.

And Paul Willson, plant controller at TRW was happy too, that:

The Friendship Agreement builds the relationship, confidence and the possibility of investments between our two cities.

There's a way to go in the north east so far as jobs are concerned, as no one needs telling. But today has helped.

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