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Nexia Ebner Stolz

German-American Mittelstand Forum Draws Enthusiastic Crowd

With the slogan "Building Bridges: Successfully Doing Business on Both Sides of the Atlantic," the first annual German-American Mittelstand Forum was held in Stuttgart on December 8, 2015. A large number of German mid-size company owners from all sorts of industries and respected American experts came together at the Soccer Lounge in the Mercedes-Benz Arena for panel discussions and special workshops.

The ope­ning remarks were made by And­reas L.J. Povel, the Gene­ral Mana­ger of AmCham Ger­many, and by Robert W. Huber, the Chair­man of the Inter­na­tio­nal Busi­ness Com­mit­tee of the Karls­ruhe Cham­ber of Indu­s­try and Com­merce. Atten­dees then heard from busi­ness­men and women from suc­cess­ful mid-size com­pa­nies, such as Mar­cus Söhn­gen (Mana­ging Direc­tor of Coro­plast), Elfi Klumpp (Head of Busi­ness Deve­lop­ment for the U.S. and Asia at Festo Didactic), and Mar­tin Friz (Mana­ging Direc­tor of WEIMA Maschi­nen­bau), who held panel dis­cus­si­ons, giving help­ful insights into their busi­ness deci­si­ons, expe­ri­en­ces and "les­sons lear­ned" when doing busi­ness in the Uni­ted Sta­tes.

In addi­tion to the three firms men­tio­ned above, more than 300 com­pa­nies from Ger­many, Aus­tria and Swit­zer­land have set up shop in the metro­po­li­tan Char­lotte, NC area. The rea­sons for their move were dis­cus­sed openly and honestly (inclu­ding the fact that the US does not always live up to its repu­ta­tion as the "land of unli­mi­ted oppor­tuni­ties"). In a talk on logistics right before the lunch break, the logistics and U.S. experts from Kühne & Nagel, Ralf Többe Regio­nal Mana­ger Sou­thwest) and Silke Grafe (head of Tra­de­lane Mana­ge­ment Transat­lan­tik) dis­cus­sed their practi­cal expe­ri­ence with trans­por­ta­tion and customs requi­re­ments for inter­na­tio­nal sup­ply chains to and from the Uni­ted Sta­tes.

A dele­ga­tion of U.S. experts, inclu­ding Jen­ni­fer Leary from Clif­ton Lar­son Allen, our U.S.-based Nexia Inter­na­tio­nal part­ner firm; Rein­hard von Hen­nigs, the foun­der of the Ger­man law firm Brid­ge­hou­seLaw, which has had a Char­lotte office for the past 20 years; Jens Chri­s­toph­ers from the task­force Mana­ge­ment on Demand AG, which focu­ses on inte­rim mana­ge­ment and also has an office in Char­lotte; and U.S. con­veyor expert Patric S. Zim­mer from Deve­lop­ment Advi­sors and Dou­glas A. Mit­chell from Wells Fargo Insurance; along with busi­ness deve­lop­ment spe­cia­lists from Selec­tUSA, the busi­ness deve­lop­ment arm of the U.S Govern­ment, Richard Minor from the North Caro­lina Com­merce Depart­ment and Sven F. Ger­zer, the Ger­man rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Char­lotte Cham­ber who is res­pon­si­ble for Europe, dis­cus­sed the cri­te­ria for choo­sing the right loca­tion in the Uni­ted Sta­tes and the pos­si­bi­li­ties of obtai­ning govern­ment sub­si­dies – parti­cu­larly for trai­ning and job crea­tion. These dis­cus­si­ons were fol­lo­wed by a lively Q&A ses­sion with the audi­ence and inter­views with ban­king experts by the long­stan­ding mana­ger of the New York Branch of Com­merz­bank, Hen­ning von Gers­dorff. Simul­ta­neous inter­pre­ta­tion of the ent­ire event was pro­vi­ded.

Chris­tina Metz­ger, a con­sul­tant on for­eign trade and energy from the Karls­ruhe Cham­ber of Indu­s­try and Com­merce, and Elfi Klumpp, from Festo Didactic, were parti­cu­larly popu­lar with atten­dees who had ques­ti­ons about trai­ning sys­tems. These experts' insti­tu­ti­ons offer a joint pro­gram with Cen­tral Pied­mont Com­munity Col­lege in Char­lotte, which is the first loca­tion in U.S. history to offer the dual trai­ning sys­tem under Ger­man stan­dards, allo­wing gra­dua­tes to receive both an Ame­ri­can and a Ger­man dip­loma when they com­p­lete their trai­ning. Panel mem­bers descri­bed the ways in which Ger­man and Ame­ri­can cul­tu­res are alike and how they are dif­fe­rent, a key point for day-to-day coope­ra­tion and a suc­cess­ful inter­na­tio­nal busi­ness. The dri­ving force behind these dis­cus­si­ons was And­reas Bitt­ner, the Mana­ging Direc­tor and found of the Insti­tute for Inter­cul­tu­ral Mana­ge­ment.

Addi­tio­nal ses­si­ons inclu­ded the Glo­bal Expan­sion Work­shop and Tax and Legal Work­shops on topics such as "Cau­tion: Hot Cof­fee - How to Suc­cess­fully Manage (Pro­duct) Lia­bi­lity in the US," "Your Tax Tool­box when Expan­ding into the US" and "Let’s Go West - How to Suc­cess­fully Imp­le­ment a Cor­po­rate and Visa Stra­tegy." Spea­kers from the Uni­ted Sta­tes inclu­ded Rein­hard von Hen­nigs of Brid­ge­hou­seLaw and Jen­ni­fer Leary, John C. Berens and Matthew J. Bar­nette of Clif­ton Lar­son Allen, while Ger­many was rep­re­sen­ted by tax advi­sor Hen­ning-Gün­t­her Wind, LL.M., and attor­ney and tax advi­sor Sten Gün­sel, both of whom are part­ners at Ebner Stolz.

The Ger­man-Ame­ri­can Mit­tel­stand Forum ended with an enga­ging pre­sen­ta­tion of locker room wis­dom and dis­ar­min­gly honest sta­te­ments by moti­va­tio­nal spea­ker and legen­dary soc­cer coach Hans-Jür­gen Sun­der­mann "the Won­der­man." The lively dis­cus­sion with the audi­ence sho­wed how soc­cer sto­ries cap­ture eve­r­yone's atten­tion. Parti­ci­pants, all of whom were impres­sed with the event, ended the day with net­wor­king and valuable dis­cus­si­ons at the Christ­mas booth and a VIP Tour of the Mer­ce­des-Benz Arena. The forum was mode­ra­ted by sea­so­ned US-based busi­ness repor­ter Katja Rid­der­busch.

The next Ger­man-Ame­ri­can Mit­tel­stand Forum will be held on Decem­ber 6, 2016 in Stutt­gart.

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