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Saline was chosen by CNN/Money Magazine in 2005 and 2007 as one of the most attractive small cities in America. Combining the best aspects of small town life with the progressive attitude of a growing city, Saline’s pro-business outlook is unrivaled. The city has streamlined its development approval process in order to make itself attractive to businesses. More than two dozen industries have made Saline their home.
Saline has three German businesses located in the city, and makes a clear impression of wanting more. The city has made a concerted effort to develop German relationships—it is a member of the German American Chamber of Commerce, and recognized the significance of their community’s German heritage by completing a sister city relationship with Lindenberg, Germany.
On October 12, 2003, at a special city council meeting, Saline Mayor Gretchen Driskell and Johann Zeh, mayor of Lindenberg, Germany signed the official Sister City Agreement, promoting friendship and cooperation between the two cities. One of the German businesses in Saline is Liebherr Gear Technology. There is a sister Liebherr business in Lindenberg, and Lindenberg employees have come over to live in Saline. Overall, the partnership has resulted in increased communication, understanding, and lifelong friendships between the two communities.
Getting to know neighbors half a world away tends to focus people on what
all communities share, as well as what makes them different. This has resulted in numerous exchanges between high school students and adult groups. In addition, the Sister City Organization holds a Stammtisch in downtown Saline, which is a “regular get-together,” with 20 to 25 participants.
A section of the city website is devoted to marketing to prospective German companies, including a link to the German American Chamber of Commerce, testimonials by businesses, and a marketing PowerPoint called “The Saline Advantage.”
“The Saline Advantage” highlights the city’s quality of life, city services, and industrial development, and the overriding message that “Saline is a small town that supports business development.” It includes this statistic: 38 percent of employment by German-owned companies in the U.S. is in Michigan (United States-German Economic Yearbook 2007).
The city website also features links to German cultural activities, such as an article on German Park, about 20 minutes outside Ann Arbor, which hosts what is “probably the most authentic German festival in all of Michigan.” Rounding it out is a list of German clubs and events in the area.
Clearly officials in Saline know how to build and nourish personal and business relationships and are keenly aware of the importance of attracting international business to the future economic health of their city.
Commerce Between Michigan and Germany
Commerce between Michigan and Germany is substantial. In fact, among the American states, Michigan's relationship with Germany, the biggest economy in Europe, may be the most significant.
Besides having a large volume of export and import trade with Germany, Michigan ranks first nationwide in the amount of capital stock investment from German companies. According to Crain's Detroit Business five of the ten largest foreign-owned businesses in southeast Michigan are owned by German companies including the Robert Bosch Corp, Continental Automotive N.A, and ThyssenKrupp USA.
It is estimated that Michigan is home to approximately 350 German-owned companies. According to the German Industry and Trade Representative at the German Embassy in Washington, these firms employ more people in Michigan than companies from any other country (approximately 78,000). Michigan has more people working for German-owned companies than any other state.
Across the Atlantic, more than 75 Michigan-based companies have operations in Germany. The American Chamber of Commerce in Germany has reported that Michigan companies account for four of the largest U.S.-owned companies in Germany, including the two largest.
Source: German American Chamber of Commerce website
Kim Cekola is research associate and publications editor for the League. You may contact her at 734-669-6321 or email@example.com.