Cobb County is looking to grow its already substantive base of German firms at a time when turbulence in Europe is expected to bring further U.S. investment from the EU’s largest economy.
The Cobb Chamber of Commerce hosted its first-ever German company reception Nov. 2, bringing local German investors into contact with three key institutions of the German community in the Southeastern U.S.
After a brief welcoming from leadership of SelectCobb, the chamber’s investment recruitment initiative, attendees at the offices overlooking Truist Park heard remarks from German Consul General Melanie Moltmann, German-American Chamber of Commerce of the Southern U.S. President Matthias Hoffmann and NRW.Global Business representative Daniel Düren.
With the war in Ukraine and the energy crunch brought on by the cutoff of Russian gas, German companies are looking further afield for new markets and sources of diversification, Ms. Moltmann and Mr. Hoffmann said.
The dire situation could lead more companies to explore the Southeast U.S., where hundreds of German firms have found a hospitable home.
“When we have delegations coming over, they say they haven’t known much before of Atlanta or Georgia, but when they arrive here, they all tell me welcome was so great,” Ms. Moltmann said, encouraging the chamber to keep welcoming German firms “with open arms” as they recalibrate their global operations.
Mr. Hoffmann of the GACC South gave these assertions some statistical backing, noting that more than 5,000 German companies have invested in the United States. The GACC South’s 11-state region hosts 1,500 of them, or about 30 percent. In Georgia alone, there are nearly 500 German firms, he said, and more are set to come as the German economy struggles.
“We see that coming already,” he said, and communities like Cobb, home to 25 German companies including elevator giant TKE, medical device firm Erbe, printing machinery provider Heidelberg and others, can prepare by ensuring that their workforce is ready to meet increasing demand for skilled labor.
“All these German businesses are coming in. They will need staff. How can we retain our staff? How can we build our own workforce here in United States? That’s a question that remains to be answered,” Mr. Hoffmann said.
Mr. Düren of NRW.Global Business, meanwhile, was focused on the opposite direction, positioning the German state of North Rhine Westphalia as a gateway into the European market for U.S. companies. It may not seem like an opportune moment for global expansion, but prospects seem to not have gotten the memo, he said.
“We’ve heard twice that the environment is very difficult in Germany and Europe, Mr. Düren said, speaking after Mr. Hoffman and Ms. Moltmann. “Yes, it is. But for whatever reason we’ve had the most U.S. companies who were interested in investing in Germany at this time,” Mr. Düren said, noting that NRW — a state of 18 million people home to cities like Düsseldorf, Cologne, Bonn, Essen and others — accounts for 21 percent of Germany’s GDP, some $700 billion per year.
“If NRW would be its own country, we would be No. 7 in Europe, and No. 18 in the world, economically speaking, so it’s a pretty strong state,” he said.
Dana Johnson, executive director of SelectCobb and chief operating officer at the chamber, underscored the importance of cultivating local relationships as the community deepens its global ties.
“We understand that international commerce is not just happening here. It happens on both sides, and we want to be supportive partners,” he said.
The chamber recently led a delegation to Quebec to deepen its focus on Canada. Along with Germany, it’s also strategically targeting Japan, another country for which it has hosted an appreciation reception.