German firms add Miami commercial ties
By Scott Blake
German businesses have been making inroads in South Florida, increasing commercial links between Greater Miami and Europe's largest economy.
The value of all trade between Germany and the US Customs District Miami rose to $1.98 billion last year — up 39% from 2010. A majority of those goods were imports, according to statistics from the Florida Foreign Trade Association.
The German American Business Chamber has existed in Miami for about a quarter century, and today has about 150 members representing German companies and businesses with German ties that have made a home in Miami and South Florida.
"We, as a chamber, are there as a platform for German businesspeople," said Miriam Metzger, executive director of the chamber, based at 100 Biscayne Blvd. in downtown Miami.
That platform serves businesses, small and large, in a variety of fields. Members include household names, such as airline Lufthansa and auto maker Porsche.
They also include well-known names in more specialized fields, such as transport firm Hellmann Worldwide Logistics and the Max Planck Florida Institute, a neuroscience and scientific research firm, and car rental firm Sixt.
And then there are more local businesses such as The Setai hotel and resort in South Beach, real estate firm Engel & Volkers, the law firm of Tew Cardenas, and Fritz & Franz Bierhaus, a pub in Coral Gables.
The German American Business Chamber is part of a network of German chambers around the US that have some 5,000 members. Some of the larger groups are in New York, San Francisco and Atlanta, Ms. Metzger said.
In her five years with the chamber, Ms. Metgzer said, "it's always been a little bit of an increase" in the presence of German businesspeople and related commerce in Greater
More recently, she said, the faltering economies of Europe seem to have more German businesses looking to overseas markets, including South Florida.
In addition, she added, German companies are increasingly looking at South Florida as a launching pad into markets in Latin American. A number of German-owned businesses have offices in Greater Miami with a focus on doing business in Central America and South America.
What some may not realize, Ms. Metzger said, is the German contribution to the local hospitality industry.
That includes some hotels in the area with German ownership, such as The Palms Hotel & Spa in Miami Beach, as well as some German tour operators, focusing on European
She also noted some German shipping companies use bonded warehouses in the area and take advantage of the access to many far-off markets provided by Miami International Airport and Port Miami.
The extensive services and facilities at the local airport and seaports are used not only for importing and exporting goods into Florida, but also as points for forwarding and receiving goods to and from Latin America.
In 2010, for example, Germany ranked as Miami's 19th largest trading partner worldwide, and ranked as its third-largest trading partner in Europe, behind only Switzerland and France, statistics show.
Last year, the total value of local trade with Germany was $1.98 billion, consisting of roughly $1.05 billion in imports from Germany and $879 million in exports going to Germany.
According to the chamber, the top five local imports from Germany, in terms of total value, are aircraft engines and parts; imports of returned exports; paintings, drawings and other artwork; dishwashers and other cleaning machines; and coffee.
The top five local exports to Germany in total value are aircraft; motor vehicles; scrap of precious metals; aircraft engines and parts; and silver.
In a recent letter, Michael Claus, president of Miami's German American Business Chamber, noted a new Tampa area group could benefit German businesspeople in South Florida.
"The German American Chamber of Commerce in Atlanta has opened a new chapter in Tampa Bay, upon request of many of the resident German companies in the area," Mr. Claus wrote
"This gives us a much broader presence and visibility in Florida," he added, "and may attract even more companies to move to the Sunshine State, which would benefit the state of Florida and also many of us."
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