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Cambridgeshire mayor's Washington visit could help forge new links with Boston

By Ben Comber

The mayors met in Washington DC
The mayors met in Washington DC

James Palmer met with US mayors from all over the country in the capital

Cambridge is forging new links with Boston and California that could mean improved trade, investment and cultural exchange.

Mayor James Palmer attended January’s US Conference of Mayors in Washington DC where he met with mayors from across America.

He said: “It was an extremely productive visit. Due to the mayoral system being so new to us, part of the value is in learning from US mayors and the way they go about tackling challenges in their areas.”

One such issue was housing around Silicon Valley. Mr Palmer spoke with the mayor of Oakland, Libby Schaaf, who said her area was facing some of the same challenges as Cambridgeshire.

“A key focus for Mayor Schaaf has been finding innovative ways to help mobilise the YIMBY’s, young people who want increased access to affordable housing and the opportunity to get a foot on the property ladder,” Mr Palmer said. “I completely agree with Ms Schaaf that younger people who are keen for greater housing availability should be more vocal and have a real say through the planning process. It can’t just be those who are anti-development that get their voices heard.”

He also discussed a sister city agreement with Boston mayor Marty Walsh. Boston has such an agreement with Belfast.

“Bearing in mind the great synergies there are between the economy here in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough and Boston’s, ahead of the trip I was determined to meet with Mr Walsh to discuss the ways in which we might be able to work together to promote trade and investment between our two great areas,” he said.

“Boston is the number one centre in the world for life sciences and we are the number one centre in Europe. There are so many reasons for us to work together. Between us we also represent three of the very best universities in the world.

“My understanding is that the agreement between Boston and Belfast was primarily driven by the large Irish community in Boston. I would imagine that the agreement between Cambridgeshire and Peterborough and Boston would be driven more by economic factors and therefore could well be different in scope and focus on different issues to the Boston-Belfast agreement.”

The agreement would seek to foster stronger economic development, trade and investment, tourism, youth, cultural, faith-based exchange and educational links between the two cities.

Mr Palmer also offered Cambridge as the location for a mayoral conference this year.

He met with Tom Cochran, the CEO and executive director of the US Conference of Mayors, who talked of his ambition for the top 20 most influential US mayors to visit the United Kingdom for a conference with the seven UK regional mayors this year.

Mr Palmer said: “I’m very happy to help facilitate a delegation of US Mayors to the United Kingdom.

“However, I was keen to stress my desire for any such conference to take place in Cambridge. I have since written to the Prime Minister letting her know about our plans and whether she is able to attend.”

He also discussed life sciences with the mayor of Orange County, Don Wagner, who will be visiting Cambridge this month to discuss further trade and investment opportunities.


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