SAARBRÜCKEN, Germany — The state of Utah has trade and cultural relationships with different cities and states around the world. But the Governor's office of economic development says our most active partnership is with a state in Germany called Saarland.
Germany is divided into 16 federal states. Saarland is in the western part of the country, very close to France, Luxembourg and Belgium. That, plus a lot of other factors, make it a prime location for Utahns to do business in Europe.
You don't have to look hard to see the charm of Saarland. It boasts beautiful river valleys, large castles, lazy outdoor cafes and bustling streets.
"Utah is a little bit like the Saarland — full of hidden champions," said Thomas Schuck, Saarland economic promotion director.
The two states share similarities: A smaller size, an industrial history, and a current focus on high-tech industries. Realizing the parallels, state leaders signed a cooperation agreement in 2002.
"There is an economic, an education and also a cultural cooperation," said Franz Kolb, part of the Governor's Office of Economic Development.
Economically, Saarland helps Utah companies break into the European market.
"We've been trying to expand into Europe and one of the things that we found quite convenient was working with Saarland," said Douglas Harding of Aribex, Inc.
Orem company Aribex manufactures handheld dental X-rays. Saarland leaders partnered them with a German company called MT Promedt, which helps them to get in contact with prominent folks in the industry in the Saarland, as well as work out logistics and distribution. MT Promedt helps 15 Utah medical device companies navigate European safety regulations and find distributors.
A Saarland company called CBA offers similar guidance to Utah nutritional supplement companies by testing food products in their lab and helping with certification.
"If they want a foot in the door in Europe, Saarland is the place to do it" said Amanda Warne-Lorscheider of CBA.
You may be wondering what Saarland gets out of this relationship. For them it grows their GDP, creates jobs and expands their international community. Both states benefit from educational exchanges.
The HTW University of Applied Sciences in Saarland has partnered Westminster College. Faculty from both schools have lectured at the other. Next year HTW will bring 20 German students to Salt Lake and a group of American students will visit Germany.
"We feel very grateful we have this relationship," Kolb said.
The German state also hosts business seminars in Utah every year. They've even thrown special dinners where they invite business, academic and political leaders to experience the culture of their state. Both parties say it's been a win-win relationship for everybody.