German group gets taste of Danville life

June 22, 2004|JULIE McGLOTHLIN

From meetings with the U.S. Department of State to receiving the keys to the city of Danville, they've come a long way. To get here, they've traveled even farther, all the way from Germany.

As part of the State Department's International Visitors Program, a German delegation has spent the past two days touring Danville.

Accompanied by their interpreter, Heide M. Crossley, the three-member delegation visited Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, the Industrial Park, Dana Corp., Chambers Bed and Breakfast Inn, Central Kentucky Technical College, Old Crow Inn Bed and Breakfast, Centre College, Third Street Development Corp., and Two Roads Cafe as well as met with city and county government officials and local business leaders.

Chosen by the American Embassy in Germany to participate in the program, Lutz Prager, Andreas Brzezinski and Marc Jan Eumann are observing various American business and industrial models.

The program is designed to foster cultural exchange and economic growth between the two countries.


Unemployment is a particularly important issue, because of its severity in much of eastern Germany where rural unemployment can be as high as 25 percent.

While in the United States, the men have been looking at such things as competitiveness in the workplace, creating new jobs, on the job training, globalization, and entrepreneurship. The health care and media industry as well as the role of universities in economic development also are of interest.

The International Visitor's Program started June 5 and will end this weekend in New York City.

The delegation began the program in Washington, D.C., and visited Portland, Ore., and Raleigh, N.C., before coming to Danville, which is the only city of its size included in the program.

"We think it's a great opportunity," says Eumann, deputy floor leader of the Westphalia State Legislature.

"The U.S. invented our federal system after World War II, so we're interested in state and federal and how they interact."

The delegation arrived in Kentucky on Saturday and spent Sunday touring Shaker Village, an experience the members could not stop talking about. In addition to commenting on the "warm welcome, beautiful weather, and great fun," Eumann was impressed by the accessibility of Shakertown, saying that similar sites in Germany focus less on living history and craft demonstration.

Prager, editor-in-chief of the Jena edition of the Ostthuringer Zeitung newspaper, said, "It's interesting that it is an actual museum and a commercial enterprise" with lodging, restaurants and shops that create revenue for the museum.

Eumann said the application of a similar model in Germany could help generate income for the publicly funded museums.

Although Danville is small compared to the other cities they have visited, the delegation noted that its economic offerings are surprisingly diverse and well integrated.

"It is quite interesting for us to see in a more rural region that you have global players. There is a good mix in economic structure between small and medium businesses, too," says Brzezinski, deputy managing director of the Leipzig Chamber of Skilled Trades.

Brzezinski said it is easy to see American trends and automatically apply them to German businesses without thinking through their actual benefits. The International Visitor's Program allows the delegation to see these trends in practice and evaluate their effectiveness before applying them to Germany.

The program shows the visitors a broad cross-section of American life, displaying the diversity of the nation. As a small city, Danville illustrated the hometown side of America.

"Danville is very friendly and is very green. I'm impressed by the manicured lawns ... The stay here in Danville was particularly warm and extremely well prepared," Prager said, smiling.

Brzezinski added, "It is important to go to cities but also to some smaller regions, to get to know different places."

"The first thing to realize is what a huge country the U.S. is. ... If you talk about the United States, you talk about Washington, D.C., or New York City. It's important to realize that there are lots of different states and different people to gain a broader understanding of how people in the U.S. live.

And I believe that is the basic premise on which to build the transatlantic dialogue," said Eumann.

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