Indiana-China Sister City: Valparaiso, Indiana & Huzhou, Zhejiang

valBY ECHO LU

Valparaiso is the county seat of Porter Country, Indiana. The population was 31,730 at the 2010 census.

The site of present-day Valparaiso was included in the purchase of land from the Potawatomi Indians by the U.S. Government in October 1832. Located on a glacial moraine and the ancient Sauk Indiana trail from Rock Island to Detroit, the town had its first log cabin in 1834. Established in 1836 as Portersville, county seat of Porter County, it was renamed to Valparaiso (meaning “Valley of Paradise” in old Spanish) in 1837 after Valparaiso, Chile, near which the county’s namesake David Porter battled in the Battle of Valparaiso during the War of 1812. The city was once called the “City of Churches” due to the large number of churches located here at the end of the 19th Century.

The city also has a long history of being a transportation hub for the region. In 1858, the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railroad reached Valparaiso, connecting the city directly to Chicago. By 1910, an interurban railway connected the city to Gary, Indiana. Today, while the city no longer has a passenger train station, it is still very much a part of the “Crossroads of America” due to its proximity to I-65, I-80, I-90, and I-94. Additionally, the Canadian National railroad still runs through the downtown area. Until 1991, it was the terminal of Amtrak’s Calumet commuter service.

The city is the site of multiple colleges and universities. Purdue University North Central has a satellite campus in Valparaiso, and one of Ivy Tech’s 23 regional campuses is located in the city. Valparaiso is also home to namesake Valparaiso University, occupying 310 acres (1.3km2 ) on the south side of the city near downtown. The university is also a cultural center of the city, hosting venues such as the Brauer Museum of Art, home to more than 2,700 pieces of 19th and 20th century American art.

Valparaiso has a variety of quality buildings and green field sites ready for development. These sites are located along the 49 Bypass, both north and south of U.S. 30. Some sites are already developed as industrial/commercial parks that are subdivided with all infrastructures in place. Some parks are located near the Porter County Airport for easy access to business air service.

Valparaiso has developed a balanced business community that currently includes international companies that produce parts for the computer age, and a national company that makes Orville Redenbacher popcorn. These companies and many more have found the Hoosier work ethic, the cost of doing business in Indiana modified by state incentives, and the frozen tax levy all exceptional.

In March 2010, a delegation from Zhejiang Province visited Chicago and Indiana in about 10 days. Valparaiso was interested in arranging a sister city relationship with a similar city in China, and Huzhou was one of the candidates.

Planning Director Craig Phillips and Economic Development Director Matt Murphy picked up the visitors at the Chinese consulate in Chicago.

The first thing the visitors did was presenting silk scarves made in Huzhou. Phillips said the scarves were officially licensed for the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai and had a picture of the U.S. pavilion at the expo on them. Mayor Jon Coastas also received a scarf when the group arrived at City Hall. In exchange, chocolate and popcorn donated by South Bend Chocolate Co. and a miniature baseball bat from Hoosier Bat in Valparaiso were given to the Chinese delegates.

A sister relationship was discussed, both believed the sister city program would enable two communities from different parts of the world to share cultural, economic, educational and other information and would establish a trade relationship.

Huzhou is a prefecture-level city in northern Zhejiang province. Lying south of the Lake Tai, it borders Jiaxing to the east, Hangzhou to the south, and the provinces of Anhui and Jiangsu to thr west and north respectively. At the 2010 census, its population was 2,893,542 inhabitants whom 757,165 lived in the built-up (or metro) area.

Huzhou is in the center of the Yangtze River Delta Economic Area. It is known as the City of Silk and is one of the Four Capital Cities of Silk in China. The city’s economic is build up by textiles (especially silk), building materials and agriculture.

The history of Huzhou Silk can be uncovered back to the time of the Warring States (474 BC-221 BC). By the time of the Southern and Northern Dynasties (420 AD-589 AD), Huzhou had already been exported to more than ten countries. During the Tang Dynasty (618 AD-907 AD), Huzhou silk was chosen for an imperial tribute, thus marking the first prosperity in silk production. With the establishment of the Ming Dynasty (1368 AD-1644 AD), the residents living near Lake Tai entered the profitable textile industry, resulting in a larger workforce and a refinement of Huzhou Silk products.

Huzhou silk has won awards at World Fairs, and is desired by clothing and furnishing manufacturers overseas.

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