The GACC South welcomes iris-GmbH as a new incubator tenant

Written by Katja Hintz

On Wednesday, September 10th, 2014, iris-GmbH celebrated the opening of their new office location at the GACC South in Atlanta, Georgia. The office opening event included a small but festive reception with the representatives from the company, the GACC South, as well as several local business partners. In his speech, Mr. Andreas Thun, General Manager of iris-GmbH, pointed out that this official entry into the U.S. market represents a key milestone for the company and that there is a lot of further growth potential.

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iris-GmbH designs, develops, produces and installs opto-electronic sensor components for automatic passenger counting, which can be integrated within a variety of systems. Their main product is the passenger counting system IRMA, which was developed especially for use in urban public transport.

The company was founded in 1991 and is headquartered in Berlin, Germany. Their sensors are used all around the world and they have already collected extensive experience in the U.S. market. Some of their biggest projects include equipping the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in Los Angeles, California with a total fleet of 2886 vehicles, the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO) in Houston, Texas with 1332 vehicles and the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) in Atlanta, Georgia with 665 vehicles.

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Passenger counting systems are especially important when it comes to planning the demand of vehicles during peak times e.g. establishing which amount of passengers will travel after a football game or to determine whether investments into extending fleets and route networks are necessary and to justify the funding for these new investments.

To better serve the increasing demand in North America and to be closer to their U.S. customers, the company has decided to establish a U.S. subsidiary and employ permanent staff in the US. The current project at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport has been a main contributing factor to choose Atlanta as its new office location in the North American market. The name of the U.S. subsidiary is iris infrared & intelligent sensors NA, Inc.

The GACC South would like to welcome iris infrared & intelligent sensors NA, Inc. in Atlanta and looks forward to supporting them in their U.S. market entry and expansion.

Welcoming our Houston Office Managing Director

Written by Cherlee Rohling

The GACC South welcomed its new Houston Office Managing Director, Dr. Andreas Schumacher, with excitement this past July. The office has been filled with positive energy since his arrival, and we have had enough time to get to know “Andy”. Originally born in Münster, Andy traveled to New York City as an intern for a Swiss Filtration company and 20 years later, he still calls the United States his home. Andy lived in Buffalo, New York for 16 of those years where he worked in strategic marketing and organizational development in both industry and as faculty at several colleges. As an enthusiast for change, Andy grew a passion for helping others as he entered into private practice as an Organizational Psychologist. In his free time, he enjoys partaking in Tai Kwon Do with his wife and son.

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So what does this black belt German family man coming from New York think of Texas? I had some time to sit down with him and talk about his thoughts on the Lone Star State as well as his goals for the GACC South.

1st Impressions of Texas
Andy considers Houston an amazing city that outgrows itself. Unfortunately, with such rapid growth comes a heap of traffic. As Andy commutes from Katy, he enjoys an hour of stop and go traffic with some NPR. Believe it or not, Houston is more than just traffic. He appreciates the entrepreneurial spirit and people striving for autonomy here in Houston. He also mentioned that everyone is so welcoming and nice here, making the transition much easier. His family is happy and excited about life in Texas- it sure does beat having to shovel snow from October up until May (sometimes).

German vs. American Business Style
Having experience in both the German and American Business sector, I was slightly curious as to what he had to say about the difference between the two. “Americans like to take risks and are driven by innovation. In order to succeed in the U.S., you must be willing to try new things. It is easier to start a new path here- you can be an engineer one day and decide to become a doctor the next. That is completely normal and possible.” He believes that if you want something and you truly pursue it, then you will get it. It is also about who you know in American culture. Networking and building relationships are key and open up more opportunities for an individual. He also advises German businesses to be careful of the presumed similarities between the two cultures. It is a completely new experience coming into the American business environment.

Plans for the GACC South and the German American Community
“The GACC South is Houston’s ‘best kept secret’”. Andy acknowledges the great team that is here in the Houston Office and wants to raise awareness of the strong talent that the GACC South has to offer. He would like to see the GACC South more known as a formidable resource for business and increase our visibility in key industries. He would also like to help companies and individuals with effective cultural integration into the South, Texas, Houston. Having such extensive experience in both cultures, Andy contributes to the German American Community and is looking forward to bringing the two cultures closer together.

If you haven’t already met him, join our Oktoberfest on Wednesday, October 1, or any other upcoming event!

Taking Shots for a Cause: The 12th Annual Charity Golf Tournament

written by Nicole Prybula

The 12th Annual Charity Golf Tournament, hosted by the German-American Cultural Foundation on September 5th, was a ‘hole in one’!

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13 teams took the ‘long drive’ to Bear’s Best Golf Course in Suwanee, Georgia to raise some ‘green’ for the German School of Atlanta, and ‘tee up’ for a fun day full of swings, putts, chips and pitches.

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The generous contributions made by the Golf Tournament’s players and sponsors enabled the German School of Atlanta to purchase brand new German books from the German accelerated reader program Antolin, as well as purchase a new web-based library software.

Following the tournament, the players enjoyed a southern BBQ lunch as they anxiously awaited the announcement of the winners, and engaged in some more competition to win the exciting raffle prizes. Congratulations to all of this year’s winners!

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We would like to thank BESTAR, LLC for co-organizing the event with us, and to the German-American Cultural Foundation for their continuous support.

Pictures from the event can be found here.

A visitor from Latvia…

Written by Ginta Petra, German Baltic Chamber of Commerce

Dear colleagues,
Dear readers,

The worldwide network of www.ahk.de and especially the AHK project VETnet financed by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research made it possible for two exceptional weeks to change my place of residence from German Baltic Chamber of Commerce (AHK Baltic States) in Riga (Latvia), to the AHK in Atlanta (USA).

Being asked to write a blog about my 12-days stay with the German American Chamber of Commerce of the Southern U.S., Inc. (GACC South) I decided to organize* my story in some (hopefully) easy understandable sections.

  1. GACC South for beginners.

In order to let you imagine who the GACC South is, I would be glad to repeat it in all languages and everywhere in the world: the colleagues at the GACC South are so kind, professional, polite and welcoming everywhere and everybody! Might it be the open office which makes everybody to feel so good? Or might it be that people at the GACC South are hired taking into account their horoscopes? Or might it be the southern climate with sunnier days than everywhere else? Or, maybe, the mix of nationalities?I felt very welcomed, from the moment I was picked up by sunny Stefanie on the Sunday night. But the biggest surprise I experienced the next morning, when I woke up on the 55th floor in the hotel, I went to the window and saw this.

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(Needless to say that my first name starts with G and last name – with P. Thank you, friends!)

  1. Atlanta for beginners.

Atlanta proves the nickname “Hotlanta” – the temperature in August increases till the following.

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I learned and saw it personally that Atlanta is the birth place of Martin Luther King, Margaret Mitchell and her “Gone with the Wind”. Atlanta hosted the summer Olympic Games of 1996, and is headquarter city of the GACC South (!), Baseball team Braves, CNN and Coca Cola.

The people in Atlanta speak soooo fast. I couldn’t understand almost anything without asking to repeat. Mostly I used the strategy just to smile, and it helped – almost anything arranged by itself (e.g. – by one kind person). Most easily I understood compliments (for whatever reason…) – being said about my dress, shoes, bag – about anything and from completely unknown people.

ginta02The people in Atlanta are so nice that they will sacrifice themselves and explain the rules of baseball game to someone who doesn’t know anything about the game. Even more: they are ready to explain by attending a game and being not able to follow the results because spending the time and attention for explaining. The explaining can last some 20 minutes and after that you will understand what jersey-color the Braves are wearing, but nothing else…

I will repeat myself but – people in Atlanta are so friendly, polite and cute that they could easily apply for working at the GACC South (see point one).

  1. Atlanta for intermediates.

If you live on Peachtree Street, it doesn’t count. There are Peachtree Str. West, Peachtree Street North, Peachtree Road, Peachtree Way, Peachtree …………anything.

Atlanta is big (6 Mio. inhabitants), open, friendly and multi-cultural so that nobody could be impressed, confused or surprised about a newcomer like me (as long as I don’t rise the question: “Is it possible to pick mushrooms here?”).

From another side – the people in Atlanta are worried about me: middle in the night I receive nine messages about flash flood warning (while sleeping in the 55th floor…) and ask me: where did they get my mobile number?!

Next, look back to the point two and multiply the explanations of baseball rules by approximately 49, and you will be (probably) able to follow the game…

  1. USA for beginners (very beginners…).

USA is a service land. That’s it. If you give out 100 business cards during the first three days, (see point two, which means, I got to know too many kind people who wanted to change contact details with me) you always have a solution: a kind man in an FedEx office on the road, on Sunday afternoon will print you new ones within seven minutes for eight dollars.

If you ask somebody on the street “Excuse me, where did you buy your coffee mug”, be not surprised after two days to be addressed by the same person but in completely another place by the question “Did you find your coffee mug?”.

If you think you have learned a lot of new words, when being in the U.S. just for a week, and the words are like: GETSMRT2, TRAINMAN, PRTTYROK, BKROADS, its wrong. Because they aren’t words – they are car signs.

I was very touched seeing this one sign not only here, but also hearing it from a congressman in a graduation ceremony at Volkswagen.

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  1. “German dual vocational education in the USA and Latvia” for beginners.

This is the main reason I came to Atlanta – to learn from the experiences of the colleagues in Atlanta in their activities the field of dual vocational education.
We in Latvia are just starting in this area with real grassroots work in advising the local partners on the idea and practical issues of dual vocational education. We do so in the framework of the VETnet project financed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research – which is coordinated for the 11 pilot countries worldwide by our umbrella organization, the DIHK in Berlin and hopefully will expand to more AHKs worldwide. We are all in different stages of development – but the topic is very important to all involved players. I learned that AHK in Atlanta is already working together with subsidiaries of German multinationals as well as with other interested companies on site and I had the chance to witness graduations at Volkswagen Academy and at Aiken training center, talk to many parties involved and see the potential outcome of dual vocational education support activities by an AHK. It gave me a lot of input for our work in Latvia in the coming years.

I also learned that anything is up to the people: if there is a person who stands behind an idea, is charismatic dreamer, visionary and has enough power, you can move anything to anywhere. Even an education system which differs from that one the target group knows till now. If this is possible in a country size like the U.S., then it will be possible also in Latvia. I experienced touching graduation ceremonies in Aiken, Chattanooga, informative phone conversations with colleagues in Washington D.C. and Chicago. I was allowed to shadow my mentor in Atlanta, Stefanie, in everything she has done in the field of vocational education. I appreciate Stefanie’s support a lot and would like to quote Mr. Robert Crenshaw: “If it is possible for somebody to have all the connections around the world, then Stefanie has for sure all the connections around the universe.”  Thank you that I was allowed to benefit from your connections!

  1. Latvia for beginners.

My country, Latvia, is bigger than Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands or Switzerland, but is three times smaller than Atlanta (2 vs 6 Mio. inhabitants).

Just a week ago I thought: Latvia is a small country where everyone knows everybody and where all the people are in a call distance. Just an example: the President of Latvia, the Prime Minister, the Head of the National Bank and almost all ministers have been the honored guests at many events organized by the AHK in Latvia.

After 10 days in the U.S. I know – small is the world, not only Latvia. Need a proof?

I came from Riga. Stefanie from Atlanta brings me to Chattanooga, where I meet Christian from New York who works for Audi in Mexico. From the moment of our meeting Christian knows two Latvians – me and a young man, Helmuts whom he met in Hamburg 2008. Need continuation? Helmuts is a friend of mine….

Additionally, Manuel, my colleague at the AHK in Atlanta, has been in Latvia several times. Mark Pierson, an honored member of the GACC South, has moderated a conference about Latvia 20 years ago, Robert from Aiken met Latvians a week ago (by the way, the members of German Baltic Chamber of Commerce in Latvia), and Dr. Eike Jordan, former President of the GACC South, knows Latvia because of our Ice-Hockey-Team. By the way, the temperature in Latvia varies from minus 25 degrees celsius (mostly) to plus 25 degrees (seldom). And that’s why we are strong in winter sports. (Link)

Riga, the capital of Latvia, is the biggest city around the Baltic see and this year, it is the European Capital of Culture. (Link)

The tradition of singing in Latvia (as well in other Baltic countries) is so strong that UNESCO included this phenomena in Cultural Heritage of Humanity. (Link)

And finally – Latvia is actually  a secret which you are more than welcome to discover. (Link)

  1. Conclusion.

There are none and can’t be any conclusions: It’s just a beginning of partnerships and friendship. After having visited many countries I smile always when experiencing a positive cultural shock.

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My time at the GACC South was an exceptional positive experience. My warmest regards to all of you! I will be glad to welcome you in Latvia and to assure hospitality of Latvians (and of the best places to pick up mushrooms).

With my warmest regards,
Ginta

*to organize – because I work too long for German companies to take it for granted – organizing anything. :-)

A Growing Member Community

Written by Nicole Prybula

This year’s Annual New Member Reception gathered the largest crowd yet, as almost 200 new and old friends of the German-American business community met at the GACC South Atlanta Office to welcome the new members who have joined our organization during the last year.01

Sponsored by Burr & Forman, LLP, the reception, held on July 22, 2014, united representatives across the entire Southern region, from Alabama, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Georgia, to even a special visitor from the IHK in Berlin.

President & CEO, Martina Stellmaszek, introduced this year’s newest members and highlighted the very busy and exciting rest of the year ahead of us.

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Among this year’s highlights was the introduction of the GACC South’s new Referral Award. Whomever refers the most members by the end of this year will win a weekend stay at a luxury resort in the Southern United States. So, make sure that any member you refer mentions your name on the application form, and let the competition begin! For more information, view the flyer here.

Atlanta’s Vice-Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany, Thomas Wülfing, and the evening’s sponsor, Burr & Forman, LLP, also provided welcoming remarks before guests indulged in the buffet of delicious ‘Wurstsalat’, ‘Kartoffelsalat’ and ‘Brotzeit’ platters.
Along with the traditional German food & beer was the legendary Margarita Machine to spice up the night.

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A special thank you to MVI Proplant, Inc. and Star Publishing USA/ Star Consulting for providing the Margarita Machine. Also, thank you to Krombacher and Lammsbräu for sponsoring the beer.

Find pictures from the event here.

Introducing Michaela Schobert, Director, Consulting Services

Written by: Will Middlebrooks

On Tuesday, July 1, 2014, the GACC South welcomed its new Director of Consulting Services, Michaela Schobert, to its Atlanta headquarters. Michaela comes to the GACC South from Haßfurt, Germany, where she was Head of the Export Department at Maintal Konfitüren GmbH. We sat down with her for a casual breakfast in order to get to know her a little better. Topics included her background, her hobbies and interests, and what she envisions for the GACC South and the German-American community.

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Background, Hobbies, and Interests
Michaela was born in a small village community called Eußenheim-Münster. Located about 45 minutes away from Würzburg in the “Fränkisches Weinland” (Franconian Wine region) of Bavaria, Münster is home to only a few hundred people, and is where she lived for her childhood and through her primary schooling. Her favorite activities include Zumba as well as other sports and activities like Yoga, Latin dance and traveling. She also has a love for music, and used to play both the flute and the organ. Whenever there is something that she wants to do, Michaela sets out and accomplishes it. Thus she can’t wait to travel and explore the U.S.  more, maybe even in a cross-country road trip. She also has her sights set on a cruise in the Bahamas!

A Passion for International Trade
Working with and getting to know different cultures is something that Michaela has always enjoyed. Living as an Au Pair in the U.S. when she was younger, she found early on that she liked it here. Her love for other cultures grew further when she spent a semester abroad in Taiwan as an exchange student. She believes that her passion for international trade is also based on the importance of being able to communicate with people from other cultures and work successfully with them.

Plans for the GACC South and the German-American Community at Large
In her new role at the GACC South, Michaela wants to bring her vision and understanding of the small-to-medium-sized enterprise as a customer, and utilize this knowledge to bring to them exactly what they are seeking in a market entry project. To the German-American business community as a whole, she brings the point of view of somebody who has grown up in and is knowledgeable of both cultures, and hopes to further strengthen the ties between the two cultures.

Finally, Michaela looks forward to taking on a new challenge, and is excited to be working with such a great and diverse team. Furthermore, she looks forward to helping small-to-medium-sized organizations realize that the U.S. market is attainable for them.

We are looking forward to an exciting new start with Michaela! Be sure to give her a warm welcome at this year’s New Member Reception on Tuesday, July 22, 2014 from 5:30 – 7:30 PM. Further event info can be found here.

FIFA World Cup – How North Carolina Cheered for Germany and the USA

Written by Katharina Wilke

On June 26, 2014 hundreds of Germans and Americans gathered at the GACC South events in Charlotte and Raleigh to mingle into Thursday’s nail-biting World Cup match between USA and Germany.

Enthusiastic soccer fans crowded at Tyler's Restaurant and Taproom in Raleigh

Enthusiastic soccer fans crowded at Tyler’s Restaurant and Taproom in Raleigh

More than 200 people enjoyed the game with brats, sauerkraut and beer at The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery in Charlotte. The OMB, a popular spot for watching the FIFA World Cup, installed an 8-foot high-definition projector screen in Charlotte’s oldest microbrewery.

Fans gathering at the Olde Mecklenburg Brewery in Charlotte

Fans gathering at the Olde Mecklenburg Brewery in Charlotte

170 miles further northeast, about 500 enthusiastic soccer fans crowded at Tyler’s Restaurant and Taproom in Raleigh to watch the match. The sports bar on the edge of the state capitol complex attracted a mix of civil servants, faculty from N.C. State University and guests of the GACC South.

While soccer is the most popular sport for Germans, we were happy to see a lot of Americans who caught on to the World Cup fever.

In the end, everyone was happy. Even though the USA lost 1-0, they advanced to the next round, together with Germany.

See you in the finals!

Go, Germany! Go, USA!