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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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