Although Germany is on the other side of the globe from Harvey County, Mickey Fornaro-Dean is making connections that could bring the two closer together.
The executive director of the Harvey County Economic Development Council recently returned from a trip to Germany, where she was able to make contacts with businesses in various industries with help from consultant Stan Brodhagen.
"It has opened doors that we can continue to have conservations with," Fornaro-Dean told Harvey County Commissioners during a presentation Monday.
Fornaro-Dean and Brodhagen visited Munich, Germany, from June 1 through 9, and participated in the 2013 Transportation Logistics Tradeshow, attended the American Chamber of Commerce Germany meeting and dinner, and met with a multi-national German corporation focusing on the renewable energy and agriculture industries.
At the tradeshow, Fornaro-Dean was able to visit booths for different companies and speak with employees representing those companies. She and Brodhagen were able to compose a list of contacts from a wide variety of industries — including transportation, logistics, automotive, wind energy and rail. They plan to follow up with these industries and provide them with more detailed information on the Harvey County area.
While Fornaro-Dean said there are no guarantees these companies will choose to expand to Harvey County, they are interested in continuing the conversation.
"(They're) coming to the U.S., and (we're) now on (their) radar screen," Brodhagen said.
Since making trips to Europe to generate more contacts could be costly, Fornaro-Dean said her goal is to narrow the focus to German companies already invested in the United States.
"That's where the growth is coming from," Brodhagen agreed.
Brodhagen and Fornaro-Dean also plan to attend a German-American Business Council event in Washington, D.C., in October. The event features German companies who have expressed an interest in the United States or already have U.S. connections.
County commissioners previously voted to provide funding for Brodhagen to attend the two events. Payments to Brodhagen will be for trip expenses only; he will be volunteering the time he spends working on the project. Payments will be made as reimbursements of actual expenses.
Commissioners can evaluate results and decide if they would like to continue with additional trips. The county placed a cap on funding for Brodhagen; the reimbursement cannot exceed $15,000 total. At the time, the EDC was asked to produce its own funding for the trips, and some companies and individuals also pledged to contribute to the project.
Commissioner Randy Hague said Harvey County's location and transportation assets could make it an ideal spot for foreign companies looking to expand.
"I do think our logistics, where we're at in this country, has got to be a benefit," he said.