Private Sector: Germany on the Mon
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At a conference this month in Lower Saxony, Germany, titled "Goettingen meets Pittsburgh," and during business visits to Cologne and Wuppertal in North Rhine Westphalia, Germany, I witnessed the coming together of all the international elements necessary to make Pittsburgh a viable competitor and attractive partner in the global environment of the 21st century.
Innovative business, creative culture, hard work, excellent marketing and personal relationships are indispensable elements in Pittsburgh's quest for post-Renaissance development and growth. The dual economic objectives of direct foreign investment and greater exports require the additional involvement of Pittsburgh's cultural and educational community. Neither of these elements is sufficient of themselves; they also require long-term fortitude, major investments of time and energy, and frequent follow-up. The hard work of international development also involves constant marketing through eye-catching themes such as "250 Pittsburgh: Imagine what you can do here." But none of these elements succeeds without leadership and personal relationships at all levels and within each component of expertise.
So what happened in Germany to bring about the "win-win" that Pittsburgh's economic development personnel and internationalists have been seeking in Germany for more than a decade? One of Pittsburgh's most recent business converts, Sycor Americas Inc., together with its German parent company, Sycor GmbH, hosted the "Goettingen meets Pittsburgh" conference to tell its business colleagues, government leaders and friends why Pittsburgh is such a great place for its American headquarters and why it chose Pittsburgh over other cities.
Lower Saxony's landrat (county executive) called Pittsburgh "young and dynamic," "an area of scientific research" and "an exquisite cultural region." He acknowledged Pittsburgh as a veritable "Goliath," belonging to the top 10 economic areas of the United States, and modestly referred to his own area as a "David" struggling for economic advancement. He encouraged the German business leaders to seek out business partnerships and is now considering bringing a delegation to Pittsburgh.
We owe thanks to Dr. Marko Weinrich, Sycor's President, CEO and global business leader, and to James Marczak, Sycor Americas' president and CEO in Pittsburgh. Despite its county executive's modesty, Goettingen is not to be underestimated as a Pittsburgh partner; it lays claim to 44 Nobel Prize winners, has an outstanding and elite University of 271 years vintage, and is well known for its innovative and rich area of knowledge and research.
In Wuppertal, the combination of elements for international partnership was somewhat different but equally effective. Foremost among those elements was the presence of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra on its Pittsburgh 250 Ambassador Tour. What does a symphony concert have to do with business? Wuppertal's oberburgermeister (mayor), Peter Jung, knew this was his city's opportunity to market its economic and technological expertise, as well as its cultural heritage and livability. He invited America's consul general, Matthew G. Boyse, from Dusseldorf to welcome the PSO and to acknowledge the role of public diplomacy in establishing personal relationships and business possibilities between cities such as Pittsburgh and Wuppertal. Mr. Jung showcased, through his economic development team, the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy, as well as a vibrant new business, Reidel Communications GmbH, which is on the cutting edge of media communications for such big events as the Super Bowl and the Olympics.
Wuppertal is the home of manufacturing plants for Bayer Corpo. and PPG Industries Inc. The symbol of Wuppertal's innovative and futuristic past still dominates it and is known as the Schwebebahn, a transportation system constructed in 1900, with carriages suspended from a monorail that rests on tall pillars above the city. It reminds one of Pittsburgh's 19th-century Duquesne incline on Mount Washington and how both cities have sought to be innovative and future oriented during periods of prior progress.
Even the bigger city of Cologne welcomed the PSO as Pittsburgh's ambassadors, and its economic development people facilitated business meetings for our delegation. Pittsburgh's Lanxess Corp. and its president and CEO, Randy Dearth, hosted a reception during intermission at the PSO concert in Cologne.
The Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse presented Pittsburgh as a place determined to establish a globally dominant life sciences industry. Four German companies met separately with us to discuss their potential for finding business partners in southwestern Pennsylvania. We had four detailed discussions about economic incentives and services available to insure successful investment in our region -- the necessary "business stuff" of personal relationships, hard work and follow-up.
Increasing globalization has few equals in its demands for change. International competition demands vigorous trade, urban livability and intercultural relationships. The Allegheny Conference on Community Development, through its affiliate, the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, aligned successfully with the PSO to present Pittsburgh as a thriving and active potential partner on the international scene and as a great place to live and work.
Pittsburgh's 250th anniversary is not a time for resting on the laurels of our prior Renaissance periods. It is time to address the international demands of the next 50 years.
First Published February 19, 2008 12:00 am