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Alabama opens Dep. of Commerce office in Germany to promote European investment

Governor Kay Ivey on Monday announced that the Alabama Department of Commerce has opened a business development office in Stuttgart, Germany, to enhance the state’s strategic efforts in attracting increased European job-creating investments in the Yellowhammer State.

Christoph Doerr, an experienced German businessman who spent seven years in charge of an industrial operation in Alabama, is serving as the director of the state’s new European office, which began operating earlier this month.

According to the governor’s office, Doerr’s job will be to build on Alabama’s long-standing economic development activities in Europe. In 2018 alone, European companies announced projects in the Yellowhammer State involving nearly $1.5 billion in new capital investment and 1,500 jobs, according to data from Commerce.

“Communities across Alabama have seen real benefits from the state’s economic ties to Europe, thanks to robust levels of two-way trade and significant investment that has created thousands of jobs,” Ivey said in a statement.

“Establishing a European business development office to strengthen this relationship and spark even more economic activity just makes sense for Alabama,” she added.

Doerr traveled to Montgomery last Friday for meetings with Ivey and Alabama Department of Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield. Doerr also met with Bob Smith, the assistant director of Commerce’s business development team who directs European strategy, and Hilda Lockhart, director of Commerce’s International Trade Office, among others.

“As we see investment from Europe on the rise, particularly in the automotive, aerospace, forest products and chemical sectors, it has become more apparent to us that having representation on the ground in Europe will help provide new connections, not only with companies within those sectors but also to help us advance our trade opportunities,” Canfield advised.

Smith outlined that Doerr has solid contacts in industrial fields such as engineering, tooling, machining and additive manufacturing in Germany and other hotspots on the continent. With more than 20 years of management experience, he has developed an extensive network of business connections in the region, Smith noted.

“Christoph can generate business development leads and open doors for Alabama’s team as we seek to build relationships with decision-makers in Germany and other European countries that can translate into jobs here at home,” Smith remarked.

Doerr currently serves as CEO of Innoteque Solutions in Kornwestheim, Germany, approximately five miles from Stuttgart, a major industrial center that is home to global automaker Mercedes-Benz.

From 1996 to 2013, he was president and CEO of Aluminumtechnologie Schmid GmbH, a high-precision CNC machining and die-casting company. Between 2005 and 2012, Doerr was responsible for the launch and operation of the Aluminum Technology Schmid North America production plant in Auburn that acted as a Tier 1 and Tier 2 auto supplier. The plant today operates under the ownership of Italy-based 2A S.p.A.

“During these years, I developed a deep knowledge of Alabama’s culture, customs and business advantages,” Doerr said. “I personally experienced the benefits of investing in Alabama, and I can share that with prospective companies, not just theoretical information about a business location in the state.”

Alabama’s economic ties with Europe – Germany, especially – trace back for decades. Germany has become Alabama’s top source of foreign direct investment, totaling $8.5 billion since 1999, according to Commerce estimates.

While major European corporations such as Mercedes-Benz, Airbus, GKN Aerospace, Evonik, BASF and Siemens all have operations in the Yellowhammer State, Alabama has also attracted a significant number of smaller European businesses, particularly specialty manufacturers.

A total of 82 German companies have operations in the state, more than any other foreign country, according to Commerce data. Other European countries with a significant business presence in Alabama include France (51 companies), the United Kingdom (26 companies) and Sweden (11 companies).

In addition, countries in the European Union are a major destination for Alabama exports, which exceed $7 billion annually, according to E.U. data. Top categories for Alabama-made goods shipped to the E.U. are motor vehicles and parts, minerals, aerospace products, paper and chemicals.

Ivey traveled to Stuttgart this summer following the Paris Air Show to meet with executives from Mercedes-Benz, emphasizing that Alabama values its fruitful relationship with the company and the country of Germany. Additionally, German Federal Minister for Economic and Energy Affairs Peter Altmaier recently visited with Ivey, other state officials and Mercedes-Benz U.S. leaders at the company’s Tuscaloosa County operation.

RELATED: Record year for foreign investment sparks growth in Alabama

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn