And they’re not just on Germantown Road
The Germans are coming the Germans are coming! Well, actually—they’re already here, as you know unless you’ve been living under a stein for several years. It’s not a hostile invasion; it’s a financial bonanza of mega-investment into the Volunteer State and especially the Scenic City area.
Some quick facts about Deutschland...
In the European Union (EU) of which Deutschland is a member, the Federal Republic of Germany is the economic juggernaut of them all. As in the U.S. with our 50 states, Germany is made up of 16 states. Most of the recent investment here comes from the prosperous state of Bavaria. Germany has the largest population of the 29 country-states of the EU, with more than 80 million people. Just recently, Germany became the world’s number-two location for permanent migration (the U.S. is first).
Germany introduced the common European currency, the euro, on Jan. 1, 2002. The European Central Bank sets the monetary currency policy for the EU and is located in Frankfurt, Germany. The euro is second only to the U.S. dollar as the world currency on the global market. Countries in the EU look to the Germans for loans when in financial distress. Remember bankrupt Greece?
How did we become the recipients of German investment? One of the larger reasons here in Chattanooga was that strange and rare thing happened: political bipartisan cooperation. Several individuals from different parties painstakingly worked out the huge investment potential for Volkswagen and others in our area. With an offer of over $577 million in incentives from federal, state and local officials, Volkswagen received the most generous government aid package ever offered to an auto manufacturer in the U.S.
Construction started in 2008 with an initial investment of $1.5 billion for building the site, which produces the Passat sedan. In November 2014, the announcement was made that expansion of the plant will include production of a new SUV, with an additional $900 million investment. Assembly is expected to begin in 2016 and will include the hiring of an additional 2,000 workers to join the already 2,400 employees working now at the plant.
Naturally, the Volkswagen plant has also brought additional supplier-industries to the area to service it, and of course, that means even more jobs. The appproximate number of jobs created by this collective outreach is expected to be 12,000-plus, according to volkswagengroupamerica.com
Bradley County now has the Wacker (Vah-ker) Co., which builds polysilicon products for a growing green energy industry hungry for more solar-powered technology. The initial investment of $1.8 billion by Wacker has been a shot in the arm for Charleston and Cleveland, with many hi-tech jobs added.
When completed, the plant in Charleston will be larger than the home plant located in Berghausen, Germany. The city of Berghausen has a population of approximately 20,000 people, of whom 10,000 are employed at the Wacker plant.
Founded on Oct. 13, 1914 and celebrating its centennial in 2014, Wacker is a well-established global company. When operational, employee numbers at the Charleston plant are expected to be 600 to 650 at the Charleston plant.
About all that German food in Aldi
Perhaps you have wondered, while perusing the aisles of the fabulous Aldis in Brainerd and Hixson, “What is the deal with all this German food?”
Aldi has been here since October 2005 as part of Aldi Sud (south). Aldi is a grocery store chain started in Essen, Germany by the reclusive Karl and Theo Albrecht in 1946. The brothers took their Mothers store, originally formed in 1913, and created Aldi. “Aldi” stands for “Albrecht Discount.” (Fans of Trader Joe’s know that that much-desired chain was purchased in the 1979 by Theo Albrecht.)
Aldi has grown globally to over 9,000 stores and is in 18 countries. With an estimated income of over 50 billion euros, Aldi is one of the world’s largest privately owned companies. Karl and Theo were actually the first and second richest men in Germany, respectively, until their deaths.
The nature of the Aldi brand is an overall 50 percent savings on regular groceries for the consumer. With over 1,400 stores in the US, Aldi is expanding westward into Southern California with a projected 650 new stores soon to be built across the country. They hope to have over 2,000 stores in the U.S. by 2018.
Chase Gilbert, district manager, Mt. Juliet Division office for the region’s stores, told us that to work at Aldi, one must have a high school diploma, be hard-working, and have a smile. Aldi, he said, has a very caring attitude toward its employees, which is the greatest asset of the company.
U.S. sales are consistently reinvested back into the U.S. market thus making this company a substantial power in the consumer groceries market. Our recommendation: Try one of the German products you may not recognize. Lots of yummy stuff there!
More German food, and, naturally, bier
Chattanooga’s German-American restaurant is the Brewhaus. Located at 224 Frazier Ave. on the Northshore, Brehaus is a gastro-pub, serving everything from schnitzel to bratwurst. There are also many beers to choose from. With a wide variety of German-style beers and American craft beers to select from, the 12 taps are ever changing. On Monday you can get $3 half liters all the tag (day) long! Beer tastings on Thursdays…sehr gut!
Can we really say too much about beer, the international mediator that breaks all cultural boundaries? Many restaurants cater to the German niche of fine beer drinking. In 2014, the Chattanooga Market extended their Oktoberfest celebration from two days to five days, including more polka bands and more…beer! Rock City hosts a Rocktoberfest lasting five days also. Several restaurants in the area do Octoberfest specials during the month to add a touch of Munich to the occasion.
At Cambridge Square in Ooltewah, they even have a Novemberfest on the first day of the month extending the festivities. Southern Burger Co., with 14 taps, frequently has German bieren (beers) at their establishment.
For the purist who wants as authentic as it gets, you must come to Maifest (May) in Cleveland. Started in 2006, this event has actual German chefs preparing traditional Bavarian dishes, such as real Kartoffel salat (potato salad), pretzels and schnitzels. Es Ist gut, Ja! The one-day event has grown exponentially every year since its introduction. All proceeds earned go toward the Montessori’s Kinder School. (Our English word, kindergarten, comes from two German words: kinder-child, garten-garden.)
Just south of here in Atlanta, there is a place with lots of German brew called Der Biergarten. Rumor has it that they are thinking about coming here to Chattanooga and opening an establishment in 2016…all I can say to that is, Willkommen und Prost!
Der IT und der consulting
We can’t have all this massive new technology located here without a modern IT connection. Enter the Honigsberg & Duvel Corporation, founded by President & CEO Heiko Juerges. Started with only two employees in 2007, the company has already grown to employ 120 employees. It’s located at One Central Plaza, Suite 302, 835 Georgia Ave.
Heiko is a former tank commander with the Bundeswehr (German Federal Armed Forces) on the Leopard 2 battle-tank. No doubt much of his formal computer knowledge came from his military training on the technology built into the all modularly designed battle-tanks. Thankfully, this knowledge is now being used in the development of international commerce between our two countries and other nations as well.
But how does all of this bilingual business come together? It requires a mediator who translates cultures and speaks both languages. Christian Hoferle (pronounced: hoo-fer-luh) of Hoferle Consulting is fluent in both German and English. Hoferle Consulting bridges the gap between native or foreign investor, whether it is Deutsch to English or vice-versa. Hoferle is also activities director for the German-American Chambers of Commerce (GACC), Southeast Tennessee Chapter, headquartered in Atlanta. They meet in Chattanooga on the third Tuesday of the month at Big River Grille, Hamilton Place, 5:30-8:30 p.m. Come on out and get your Deutsch on with local German entrepreneurs who work at many of the German businesses here.
Our area has benefitted greatly from the German influx. Next time you run across a German, just say a few worten (words) that you learned here. Tell them danke (thank you). They will appreciate it—just like we do them for being here and bringing us the Deutsch.