It’s easy to shake hands, smile for the cameras and proclaim that you’re partners with another organization when you think that you will benefit from the arrangement. But it’s a whole different story when your partner needs something from you.

Such is the case with our “sister city.” In 1983, the governor signed a formal agreement with a city in China, hoping to “bolster U.S.-China relations.” I’m sure people thought it would benefit us, and maybe it has, but now that city is asking us to send large quantities of medical supplies to help control the coronavirus in their area.

This poses many interesting questions. Should we do it? Who should pay for it? How would we even get them there since many carriers have temporarily stopped traveling to the country? We have a medical supply company in town and everyone looks there first, but I’m sure their demand has skyrocketed and they are able to garner premium pricing – why should they be expected to make a donation? The same is true for the hospitals; should they be held responsible for meeting the obligations of the whole city?

I am not sure how this will be resolved, but it serves as an interesting lesson when considering partnerships in the future. You shouldn’t sign an agreement because of what you think you can get if you’re not willing to retain the partnership when it’s time to give.

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