San Diego has always been known as a gateway for international business and culture due to its close proximity to Mexico, Canada and the Pacific Rim. However, over the past ten years San Diego has also been investing in a business partnership with the world’s fourth strongest economy – Germany.
Under the leadership of Dr. Stephan Hollmann, Honorary Consul of the Federal Republic of Germany in San Diego, a group of German and American business leaders were inspired to found the German American San Diego Foundation (GASDF), a non-profit organization, designed to connect San Diego and Tijuana’s German American community through innovation, culture and business, aligning its resources to become a world-class international community.
About 90,000 German immigrants are currently living and working in the San Diego region, with more and more relocating each year as a result of German businesses such as Bosch, Carl Zeiss Vision, and ThyssenKrupp Bilstein extending their activities in San Diego.
“We saw a need to provide support not only for the German American business community, but also to promote Germany’s rich and dynamic culture, and integrate Germany’s unique and highly effective dual vocational training system in our schools,” said Dr. Stephan Hollmann, President of the GASDF.
The GASDF focuses on five key initiatives which include:
1) Workforce Skills Initiative San Diego/Tijuana- Bringing together German and American businesses and local education/training providers to promote the German Dual Vocational Training system in San Diego/Tijuana. The program is designed to implement best practices from German and American institutions, and provide employment opportunities and quality training in communities across the U.S. that will strengthen the economy.
2) German Currents San Diego Film Festival- Since 2011 this event takes place each year in October and features some of the top German films. The festival is organized in close cooperation with the Goethe Institut Los Angeles and supported by German companies like Bosch, BayWa r.e., Deutsche Bank, as well as several medium sized German American companies. The film festival offers a new and refreshing picture of Germany. The opening gala event has become a popular meeting event for local German and American business representatives.
3) Albert Einstein Days of Innovation- Designed to provide students with first hand insight into German and American innovations, and inspire an interest and curiosity for learning how to make “stuff,” which Dr. Hollmann sites as the key component in the success of Germany’s economy.
4) German Language Education- The Albert Einstein Elementary charter school offers the only public German language immersion program in San Diego County. Together with the middle school it has a long history of high academic performance, consistently scoring as the two highest-ranking charter elementary and middle schools within the San Diego Unified School District. The new middle school facility will open in fall 2014. The long term goal is an extension into a high school to complete the German language education.
5) Cologne Rhine River, San Diego/Tijuana Regional Partnership- Focused on fostering the relationship between the life sciences industry in the Cologne Rhine River region in Germany and in San Diego/Tijuana.
Jeff Lewin, a shareholder at San Diego based law firm Sullivan Hill, and Eberhard Rohm, a partner at Duane Morris LLP, who are both GASDF Board of Trustees members, said that San Diego is well poised to grow not only across the Pacific, but across the Atlantic as well. The two firms have been building their own relationships with Germany through a formal attorney apprentice program, having hosted more than 60 entry level German attorneys over the past 20 years.
“Our local economy and business community have much to gain by strengthening ties with Germany,” said Lewin and Rohm. “Our firms want to play a role in helping increase international business in our region, and we believe that the GASDF has great potential and a clear vision for how we can build lasting and mutually beneficial relationships across the Atlantic.”
To that end, on January 16, the GASDF hosted Dr. Peter Ammon, German Ambassador to the United States at a private event, co-sponsored by the law firms Sullivan Hill and Duane Morris, to discuss the work they are doing in the San Diego/Tijuana region, and request additional support from the German government. The exclusive event was attended by local business leaders and policy makers, such as the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Tijuana Major’s office, and marked the first time that a German Ambassador has visited San Diego.
“Dr. Ammon responded very positively to the work we are doing here,” said Dr. Hollmann. “We look forward to continuing to grow German American cultural and business relationships with his support.”
About Sullivan Hill:
Sullivan Hill has provided efficient, aggressive and responsive legal representation for more than 40 years. The firm provides full service representation to clients in a variety of industries with an emphasis in insolvency, construction disputes, insurance coverage, real estate, employment, business disputes, civil litigation, and transactional work. The firm has offices in San Diego and Las Vegas.