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Published: Tuesday, 4/16/2013

Delegation makes final pitch before heading home

Trip deemed success for contacts, connections

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Mayor Mike Bell Bell and Anke von Wittke-Grothenn, who helped foster Toledo's sister-city relationship with Delmenhorst,  view a historic marker. Mayor Mike Bell Bell and Anke von Wittke-Grothenn, who helped foster Toledo's sister-city relationship with Delmenhorst, view a historic marker.
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DELMENHORST, Germany — Just before leaving for home, Toledo Mayor Mike Bell said his five-day trip to Germany was a success because of the connections his team had made.

“We’re here because we want to establish international relations with the city of Toledo and the city of Delmenhorst,” Mr. Bell said. “We realize the world has become extremely small and in order to be competitive, we have to reach out, not only to people in our region, but the whole world.”

Mr. Bell said the bottom line for him and Delmenhorst Mayor Patrick de La Lanne is to improve the quality of life for residents.

“It is very complicated around the whole world to address some of the quality of life issues without making collaborations,” he said. “So that is why we are here and we need to be able to work together to address these issues and there are things we can do for the city of Delmenhorst and it's possible for companies to reach across and do business in the city of Toledo.”

Mayor Bell traveled home Monday after visiting Delmenhorst and a trade show in Hanover. He said he plans to be at work today.

Before leaving Germany, Mr. Bell and his team made one last pitch for Toledo and said their farewells to new German friends and potential investors.

Arne Tscherwitschke, a partner of the firm Clostermann & Jasper, which does tax consulting and accounting, had never heard of Toledo until Monday.

“It was really interesting and I am very impressed with the deep relationship between the cities and the deep foundation,” Mr. Tscherwitschke said. “Especially when you are doing business internationally, you must have trust.”

After hearing a presentation on Toledo by Paul Zito, vice president for international development of the Regional Growth Partnership, Mr. Tscherwitschke said the two cities seemed very similar.

“Toledo is larger than Delmenhorst but we are a part of Bremen, Germany, which is much larger, and the automotive industry and suppliers are all very important here,” he said.

Mr. Zito, who speaks fluent German, pitched Toledo as a great place to do business for a small gathering of businessmen in Delmenhorst's city hall.

He listed some of the city's major employers, including Fiat SpA, the Italian car maker that controls Chrysler Group LLC; Dana Holding Corp.; Johnson Controls, and others. He also boasted about Toledo's logistical location near the intersection of I-75 and I-80 and its connection to high-tech industries like solar and other renewable energies.

“Crossroads of America” in English was peppered throughout his brief speech that was otherwise in German.

He also listed some of the amenities in Toledo like the Toledo Zoo, the Toledo Museum, and Fifth Third Field.

Many people speak English in Delmenhorst and other German cities, but speaking German is an advantage, Mr. Zito said.

Mr. de La Lanne, the Delmenhorst mayor who was born in San Francisco and speaks fluent English, quipped that he would like to run his administration similar to Mr. Bell's.

“We got into a very, very interesting discussion comparing the social issues,” Mr. de La Lanne said. “Mike has told me his budget is balanced and I would like to do that as well, if I have the money.”

City Finance Director Patrick McLean, who also speaks German, but not fluently, said the trip was a huge success.

“We put Toledo on the map in places we were not before,” Mr. McLean said.

While Toledo and Delmenhorst have some similarities, the political structures are different. For example, Toledo has 12 councilmen for its 287,000 people while Delmenhorst has 43 councilmen for its 77,000 people.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171.



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