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Chamber working with federation
Local effort may help firms expand abroad
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Forsyth County News


Local officials have made it an economic priority to draw European businesses to Forsyth County. As it turns out, Europe has been doing the same.

“It’s two ways,” said Robin Chater, who founded the Federation of European Employers in 1989. “We’ve been trying to encourage local administrations in America for a long time now.”

The federation helps major European companies operate legally and effectively on an international level.

The two-way street is mutually beneficial, said Tracy Moon, chairman of the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce’s board.

“It’s a really good fit for us because we’re focused on developing the things necessary to get ... foreign companies to reside or set up operations here in Forsyth,” Moon said.

“This is a reverse. For our members, we’ll be a resource for them if they’re interested in expanding their operations abroad. It’s sort of the next piece to the puzzle.”

Chater, a longtime fixture in European economic development and consulting experts, has agreed to work with local businesses thinking about moving or expanding operations to Europe.

With currency, tax laws, wage and employment rules, and other differences between the two continents, Chater said the initial process can be cumbersome.

“It’s a slightly different world,” he said. “The framework of employment laws and individual countries has far more scope in autonomy than the individual states in the USA.”

But through the chamber and federation, Chater said he will work with Forsyth firms at every level.

“There are all kinds of employment laws that are pretty tricky,” he said. “These things aren’t self-evident. You need to know that.

“I will take them as far as they need to go. If they need individual assistance, we can give them that ... we can give them a person to sit with them and take them through the whole process.”

Moon, an attorney with Fisher & Phillips LLP, has been impressed with Chater since the two met while handling mutual international clients.

“He’s one of the premier people that does this kind of thing,” Moon said. “To be able to have access to him and have his availability is really a big deal for us.

“He’s involved with companies all over the world ... and most important, he’s a resource for our members to help them if they’re interested in expanding their businesses in other parts of the world.”

Chater said it’s not just a matter of moving or expanding operations in Europe. Choosing which country is also important, given the different advantages each has to offer.

He will work with businesses on narrowing a selection.

“It’s a far less competitive world in many countries than it is in the states,” he said.

Chater met earlier this week with local stakeholders about his commitment to helping the community. As he’s seen through the federation, there’s a lot to be gained by having a presence in more than one country.

“If a local firm has got an operation in Europe that’s producing wealth which is brought into the states ... it’s giving you more credibility as an international company,” he said. “You’ve got more stature, your general business in the states is going to benefit.

“Yes, you have to invest. You have to commit. You have to take a risk — but the rewards are enormous.”