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State opens European development office

By TODD STACY, Alabama Daily News

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Alabama Department of Commerce has opened an economic development office in Europe, Gov. Kay Ivey announced Monday.

The new Stuttgart, Germany-based office is aimed to give the state an advantage in attracting more European companies to locate facilities and bring jobs to Alabama, Ivey said.

“Communities across Alabama have seen real benefits from the state’s economic ties to Europe,” Ivey said in a news release. “Establishing a European business development office to strengthen this relationship and spark even more economic activity just makes sense for Alabama.”

Christoph Doerr has been named as the director of the state’s new European office. Doerr is a German businessman who has managed major industrial firms in both Europe and the United States, including Alabama.

From 2005 to 2012, Doerr launched and operated the Aluminum Technology Schmid North America production plant in Auburn, which acted as both a Tier 1 and Tier 2 auto supplier.

“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.”

Reacting to the news Monday, Richard Grennell, the U.S. Ambassador to Germany, welcomed Alabama’s investment in a European economic development office.

“Alabama has jumped out front by opening a business development office in Germany,” Grennell told Alabama Daily News.  “We are working every day to increase German investment in the United States, and having someone on the ground here will be a significant asset for Alabama.”

Grennell said he plans to travel to Alabama in October to attend the Alabama Growth Summit, an economic development event sponsored by Alabama Power in Birmingham.

“I look forward to attending the Growth Summit in October to help build on the state’s long-standing ties to some of Germany’s top companies,” Grennell said.

Germany is Alabama’s No. 1 source of foreign direct investment, totaling $8.5 billion since 1999, according to the Alabama Department of Commerce. A total of 82 German companies have operations in Alabama, including Mercedes-Benz, Airbus, GKN Aerospace, Evonik, BASF and Siemens.

Greg Canfield, who leads the state’s economic development efforts as Secretary of Commerce, said continued European investment is key to Alabama’s growth strategy.

“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 said.

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