Minnesota is setting up shop with a new foreign trade office in Germany.
The office in the Dusseldorf area in western Germany is the second of what will eventually be five Minnesota foreign trade offices worldwide. Katie Clark Sieben, the commissioner of the state Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), said the office could be operational by the fall of this year. While other states have offices in Berlin and Munich, Dusseldorf was chosen because some major Minnesota companies, including medical device makers, have located in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia that includes Dusseldorf and Cologne.
“Dusseldorf was a strategic decision for our office because of the many Minnesota companies that are headquartered there. Medtronic, 3M, Ecolab are all in that region,” Sieben said in a conference call with reporters from Berlin.
Germany in 2012 was Minnesota’s fifth-largest trade partner with $728 million in sales, according to DEED. German companies employ 9,000 Minnesotans and have invested $1.4 billion in plants, property and equipment in the state.
In addition to Germany, the office’s trade representative, who has yet to be hired, will also seek to increase trade with neighboring countries like France, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Luxemburg.
The announcement comes toward the end of a trade mission of northern Europe lead by Gov. Mark Dayton. Roughly 40 Minnesota businesses and universities are represented on the trip. Among the highlights, Dayton on Tuesday met with executives from the German farm equipment manufacturer Geringhoff, which is building its North American headquarters in St. Cloud.
Minnesota currently has one trade office in Shanghai, China. The omnibus jobs and economic development bill that Dayton signed in May included $1.5 million for three new trade offices as part of what’s called the Global Competitiveness Initiative. The offices are supposed to be in markets that have the potential to increase exports and attract foreign direct investment to Minnesota. Sieben declined to say where in the world the two other offices will be located.