Governors trade mission expands opportunity for Nebraska abroad

Gov. Pete Ricketts, left, presents a special art gift depicting a Sandhill crane to Helmut Claas, right, the 93-year-old patriarch of the German manufacturing firm, during a visit to the Claas international headquarters in Harsewinkel, Germany while on his trade mission to that country Nov. 9-16. Claas remains active in company business, serving as chair of the shareholders committee. The Claas North American headquarters are in Omaha.

The value of global engagement was evident during the governor’s trade mission to Germany Nov. 9-16 as the delegation promoted Nebraska products and machinery, discussed research and study-abroad opportunities for university students and staff and invited German firms to invest in the state.

“Our trade mission to Germany was a great success,” Gov. Pete Ricketts said last week. “From a new deal to sell more popcorn to thanking job creators for investing in our state, Nebraskans helped showcase the best of Nebraska for our friends in Germany.”

Delegates on the mission included representatives from the Nebraska Departments of Economic Development, Agriculture and Environment and Energy, University of Nebraska, Nebraska Farm Bureau, Omaha Public Power District, Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, and several ag and manufacturing businesses.

This was the governor’s second trade mission to the European Union in the last five years and his first to Germany. With Germany the largest economy in the EU, it was important to connect with business and government leaders, Ricketts said.

While in Berlin, Ricketts met with officials from the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy, as well as the Ministry of Transportation. A working lunch with members of Germany’s Bundestag (the federal legislative body) was also held.

In Lower Saxony and again in North Rhine-Westphalia he also met with state officials. “Our meeting with North Rhine-Westphalia Minister President Armin Laschet was very productive,” Ricketts said.“NRW companies are creating great jobs in Nebraska, and we discussed future opportunities for collaboration between our two states.”

Laschet is well respected not only in NRW, but throughout Germany, and political pundits are saying he could be the next German chancellor. This further reinforced the importance of the meetings with Nebraska officials.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Ronnie Green said UNL was happy to participate in the trade delegation.

“In our interconnected world, engaging regularly with our international partners, whether it be in trade or education, is essential,” he said. “The Nebraska delegation, comprised of government, business, and university leaders, sent a strong message that Nebraska is a state that highly values global engagement. Our conversations with government leaders in Berlin provided the opportunity for us to emphasize the importance of evidence-based decision making, especially when it comes to the formulation of policies impacting agriculture, food and natural resources.”

Other education officials joining the delegation included Associate Vice Chancellor for Global Affairs and Senior International Officer Josh Davis, Dean of Agricultural Research Archie Clutter and Senior Associate Vice Chancellor Ron Yoder.

Green noted, “It was important to visit longtime university partners like Leibniz University in Hannover to discuss the importance of expanding research ties and opportunities for tomorrow’s leaders, our students.”

Clutter and Yoder extended their trip to visit with university partners in other EU countries and further the dialogue begun in Germany.

“The trip was a unique chance to see western European agricultural, agribusiness and communities close up, and explore new opportunities for collaborations in research and education,” Clutter said. “The visits to CLAAS and Bayer headquarters gave us a deeper appreciation for companies that are already great partners with the university and helped us envision what we can do together in the future to bring value to the citizens of Nebraska.”

Among the trade mission’s strategic stops in Germany were visits to the international headquarters of Graepel in Loeningen, CLAAS in Harsewinkel, Bayer in Leverkusen and Evonik in Essen. Graepel and CLAAS both have their North American headquarters in Omaha, while Bayer has facilities in Gothenburg, Waco, York, Kearney, Beaver Crossing, Gretna and Omaha where the company conducts everything from biotech research to detasseling.

Graepel manufactures perforated metals. Among its products are clean air intakes for CLAAS combines and John Deere tractors, as well as metal catwalks, stairways and steps, gratings and platforms, to name a few more products.

CLAAS, of course, is known for combines and forage choppers and more recently tractors. The delegation also spent time in the CLAAS training center where apprentices train, giving the Nebraskans a preview of what is to come at the firm’s Omaha plant.

Earlier this year CLAAS became one of the first two companies to launch Nebraska’s first Industry Consortium for Advanced Technical Training Apprenticeship Program. It is designed for high-tech manufacturers and companies with complex technologies or logistics.

The ICATT Apprenticeship Program is fully embedded in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Registered Apprenticeship system and is also aligned with the German Dual Education System. The program trains to German standards of excellence and culminates in a degree. ICATT was established by the German American Chamber of Commerce of the Midwest Inc. and is open to any manufacturer.

“Apprenticeships are key to helping connect the next generation of Nebraskans to great opportunities,” said Ricketts. “We look forward to seeing this program flourish and hope to expand it with additional companies.”

Officials at CLAAS noted they have 745 apprentices worldwide with 75 nationalities among the worldwide staff. At the Harsewinkel plant alone there are 220 apprentices and 10 trainers. The firm has invested in a new 1,000-square-foot training academy that will open in Omaha in 2020.

Evonik has been producing the amino acid L-lysine at a plant in Blair for about 20 years and is also part of a joint venture with a Dutch firm at a second plant in Blair to produce omega-3 fatty acids for animal nutrition through the cultivation and fermentation of natural marine algae.

The group also visited Agritechnica, the world’s largest agricultural trade fair. With exhibits spread throughout 28 buildings at the Messe in Hannover, it features 2,800 exhibitors and hosts 450,000 visitors from 130 countries.The delegation again had a targeted agenda, visiting the booths for Lemken, CLAAS, Fliegel and Horsch ag products. They also stopped at the U.S. Pavilion where Nebraska firms Lindsay Corp. and Orthman Manufacturing had exhibits. A special afternoon marketing seminar hosted by Nebraska at Agritechnica allowed the state to visit with European purchasers and promote the state’s farm equipment and machinery.

“I think the headline was that there are numerous opportunities for mutually beneficial relationships between Germany and Nebraska,” said Anthony “Tony” Goins, Nebraska Department of Economic Development director. “I was pleasantly surprised during our week there with the alignment with our value systems. We have similar wants and needs in terms of taking care of our families and communities. I was pretty amazed at the German technology and their emphasis on process engineering, which has some take-aways that would definitely benefit American companies. I was also amazed at the age of some of the German companies and that they had managed to keep them in their families for so many years.”

There were also opportunities for the delegation to socialize and interact with their German counterparts. In Düsseldorf the governor and American Consul General Fiona Evans hosted a lunch for beef buyers to promote Nebraska beef.

Under a new agreement the EU will allow the U.S. to almost triple the amount of beef exported to the region.

“Trade missions like this one allow us the opportunity to create new and strengthen existing relationships that have the potential to lead to mutually beneficial future partnerships, said Steve Wellman, director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture. “Nebraska beef represents over 50 percent of the EU market imports, with Nebraska poised to grow our beef exports even more in the future.”

This represents tremendous growth over the past 15 years as in 2005 only 5% of the U.S. beef entering the EU came from Nebraska.

Another reception at the Industrie Club in Düsseldorf allowed the delegation to visit with and thank a host of German companies in NRW for their interest in Nebraska.

But according to Green, “Perhaps most exciting for me was the reminder that with over 200,000 living university alumni around the world, you can find Huskers about anywhere you go. We were glad to find that to be true in Germany as well and enjoyed connecting with more than 75 alumni and friends of the university at a ‘Friends of Nebraska’ reception that I co-hosted with Gov. Ricketts in Berlin.

“These people are our best ambassadors and it was truly a pleasure to spend the evening hearing about their memories of Nebraska and learning about how their time with us shaped their lives, families, and careers.”

Green commented that it was the most successful international alumni reception to date and plans are to host another gathering soon, perhaps a football game watch during the 2020 season.

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