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5 priorities for growing international business in Forsyth County
International engagement event
Ben Howell, president of Kemper, talks about how to bring international companies to Forsyth. - photo by Kelly Whitmire

As Forsyth County continues to grow, new residents and new businesses are coming from all over the world, and some locals are working to make sure Forsyth County will be ready when they get here.

On Wednesday morning, the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce hosted its quarterly international engagement event at Kemper America on Ridgeland Parkway, a German company specializing in air purification for welding work places.

Here are five takeaways from the meeting and what they mean for Forsyth’s economy. 

1. The state of international business

Robert Long, vice president of economic development for the Chamber, said there are many companies in the area that are international, and while many, like Kemper, are German, several counties are represented.

“About 70 companies in our community are international,” Long said. “The biggest percentage of those is German, but we also have French, Canadian, Swiss, Chinese, Japanese, so we have a pretty wide plethora of companies here.”

2. Dual-language immersion

Michela Claus-Nix with Forsyth County Schools spoke to attendees about a new dual language immersion program beginning this fall at three Forsyth County elementary schools. Claus-Nix said programs with instruction in Spanish for half of the day and English the other half will begin this year for kindergarteners at the schools and, other languages and schools are being looked at for future implementation.

“It is much harder when you are older, so the best time really to start learning a language is when you are young,” she said. “We see cognitive benefits. We know that we see better memory retention. There’s more cognitive flexibility … we know that there is a lot of college success and increased skills.”

3. Training young workers

Ben Howell, president of Kemper, told attendees one factor that differs between Germany and the U.S. is how young people are trained for new jobs, with Germany favoring more apprenticeships and skill jobs.

“I think that’s where we should focus on,” he said, “getting kids coming out of high school to maybe look into working with their hands instead of working with their head.”

4. Changing international relations

President Donald Trump recently made claims that the country has a massive trade deficit with Germany, which he said will change. Howell said that leaves companies doing business in both nations in an odd spot.

“We have to wait [to see] what’s going to happen now, especially with Trump,” Howell said. “We don’t know what kind of taxes are coming. We are looking at, and have already, manufacturing in the states.”

5. Being a resource for newcomers

Long said a lot goes into moving to a new country for business and that the Chamber takes steps to help.

“Oftentimes, they have people here for the first time,” Long said. “We have a Chinese company here, this is their first operation in the U.S. [It’s] a little more hand-holding. They don’t know anybody, where to live, who’s going to do their accounting for them, who’s going to do their banking.”