UPDATED: Presentation to local leaders touts Toledo’s strengthsWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
DELMENHORST, GERMANY — In what was supposed to be his final business meeting of a trip to Germany before his flight home, Mayor Mike Bell spoke about Toledo to local government and business leaders from Delmenhorst, Bremen and Oldeburg at the Delmenhorst City Hall on April 15
However, Bell and Deputy Mayor of External Affairs and Economic Development Paul Syring continued promoting the city right up to the boarding gate, chatting up a business man from Zimbabwe at the Bremen airport with an unofficial presentation about Toledo and doing business in Northwest Ohio.
About 20 people attended the presentation in Delmenhorst, including the delegation from Toledo and some local media.
Bell addressed the group in English, pausing for German translation by Anke von Wittke-Grothenn, a former Delmenhorst City Council member and former honorary mayor of Delmenhorst. She and her husband, Heinz Grothenn, helped establish the sister cities relationship between Toledo and Delmenhorst and have homes in both cities. Toledo and Delmenhorst have been sister cities for 10 years.
After remarks from Bell and Delmenhorst Mayor Patrick de La Lanne, D. Paul Zito, Regional Growth Partnership’s vice president international development, gave a slide show presentation about Toledo in German.
“We’ve made some good contacts here. We can build on those relationships,” Zito said of the presentation afterward. “A consulting firm, an accounting firm, an automotive manufacturer. That’s not bad for a morning’s work.”
During his remarks, Bell said today’s world economy makes international business connections critical.
“We realize that the world has actually grown extremely small and in order to be competitive we need to be able to reach out to people not only within our region and our own country, but around the world,” Bell said.
“We have more things that are similar than there are different and that’s why I think it’s important to make these trips,” Bell said. “His [de La Lanne's] bottom line and my bottom line is the quality of life for the people who live inside the city of Toledo and the city of Delmenhorst.
“At this time in the world, it’s very complicated all around the whole world to be able to address some of those quality of life issues without making collaborations,” Bell said. “So that is why we’re here. We need to be able to work together to address these issues. There are things we could possibly do here in the city of Delmenhorst and it’s possible businesses could reach across the world and do business in Toledo, but the only way that happens is through relationships.”
Attendee Arne Tscherwitschke of Closterman and Jasper, a Bremen-based auditing and tax consulting firm, said he had not heard of Toledo before the meeting.
“I got information that we have this exchange and to me it’s very interesting, not only as a citizen of Delmenhorst, but also because of my profession,” said Tscherwitschke, whose company assists foreign companies, including U.S. companies, doing business in Germany navigate the German system. “Hopefully from this partnership American companies will start to invest in this way or the other way.”
Tscherwitschke said he saw many similarities between Toledo and Delmenhorst, including an emphasis on automotive supplier and alternative energy companies.
“I’m really impressed on how I saw the similarities between both countries so I think it’s a very good foundation of a partnership, but of course this is a basis so it can grow,” Tscherwitschke said.
Attendee Volker Boitz, managing director of Sass Metal, a small Delmenhorst company that produces metal forming parts mainly for the automotive industry, said saw the event as a networking opportunity and also attended to show support for the organizers.
“It’s very important to have international partnerships not only between companies, but also between cities, which was pointed out very clearly from your mayor,” Boitz said. “A lot of people spent a lot effort to organize this partnership and as part of a Delmenhorst company I would like to show my interest by being here. This is always a chance to get in contact with people.”
Boitz said he was aware of Toledo because of the partner city status, but didn’t know much about it, Ohio or the United States.
“If I would have the task to name all the states it would be very difficult and to put them in the right place on the map would be even more difficult,” Boitz said.
Boitz said he does not currently do business in the United States, but has considered partnering with a U.S. company to exchange markets and technology.
“We have had contact with companies in the States which have more or less the same business model we have and I think some of them are located in Toledo if I remember right,” Boitz said.
During his remarks, De La Lanne thanked Bell for coming and said reiterated that he wanted to encourage sharing of information between two cities that have a lot in common.
He ended by saying he hoped the members of the Toledo delegation would consider returning to Delmenhorst and that Delmenhorst representatives would definitely be returning to Toledo.
Former Delmenhorst City Councilman Olaf Dabels said it was a nice surprise that Zito gave his speech in German.
“It’s a great symbol I think,” Dabels said. “Most Germans speak English, but of course it’s nice to hear your own language.”
Bell was in Germany April 10-15. After a packed schedule of business meetings April 11-12 at the Hannover Messe, one of the world’s largest industrial trade shows, Bell spent the weekend in tours and activities related to the Toledo Sister Cities International relationship, before the city hall presentation on April 15.
Overall, Bell said he felt the trip was successful.
“I thought it was a great trip,” Bell said. “We made some new friends, established some relationships.”
Bell met with at least 16 companies at the Hannover Messe and dozens more “cold contacts” were made walking around and approaching businesses, Zito said.
“Any sales person knows that the cost of a lead, if you take the cost of his trip and divide it into 20 or more good contacts, it’s a pretty good return on investment,” Zito said.
The group from Toledo also included City Finance Director Patrick McLean, Public Information Officer Jen Sorgenfrei, Toledo Sister Cities International Executive Director Susan Miko, University of Toledo Associate Director Undergraduate Admission Mark Schroeder and private individual Christine Luttmann.
Bell and Syring returned to Toledo April 15. The others continued on to other business in Europe.