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German ambassador meets local politicians

By John Craven, Reporter, JCraven@wfmz.com
Published On: Nov 18 2012 06:00:00 PM CST
Updated On: Nov 19 2012 05:50:14 PM CST

"Sprechen Sie Deutsch?" If you don't know German, it might be time to learn.

"Sprechen Sie Deutsch?" If you don't know German, it might be time to learn. Germany's ambassador spent Monday in our region, talking about new jobs and German investment.

On his first-ever visit here, Ambassador Peter Ammon got a living history lesson about the Pennsylvania Germans who founded this area.

"So many German names," he said. "I met a few people who spoke in a German dialect."

But this visit isn't about the past, but the future -- specifically, new jobs.

"There are 700,000 jobs in America that are sponsored by German investment," said U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent, R - Lehigh Valley.

And Dent hopes to snag more of them. The Lehigh Valley and Berks Co. are already home to Bosch Hydraulics, Wacker Polymers, and Brenntag, the world's largest chemical distributor. Even Lehigh White Cement, a century-old staple here, is now owned by the Germans.

"The U.S. represents, I would say, 30 to 35 percent of our business, so it's important that business in the U.S. grows," said Lehigh White president Robert Breyer.

Meeting with the ambassador, Breyer and other German company leaders said they want to bring more high-paying jobs here.

"You would not go to America if you want to have low wages," said Ammon. "You would go here because you are in a technology business, high technology business."

But to attract those jobs, they said the region needs a better-trained workforce. They pushed for more focused job training programs, and praised Northampton and Reading Area community colleges for innovative efforts.

And as for the European debt crisis that keeps rattling the markets? Believe it or not, Ammon and Dent both believe that could actually work in our favor.

"As the European sovereign debt crisis continues, many Europeans are looking for places to park their money, and America is still seen as a good place to park their money," said Dent.

Ammon added: "Germany is an exporter of capital. We export about $200 billion a year, so this money needs a place to find."

In addition to Allentown, Ammon also visited Kutztown and Chester Co. on his visit Monday.