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Trading on History in the Cincinnati-Germany Relationship

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Germany is as enmeshed in our economic present as it is in the city’s historical past.

It’s no secret that Cincinnati has deep German roots. Between Oktoberfest Zinzinnati (the nation’s largest) and Over-the-Rhine, not to mention a large chunk of the populace’s results, the Queen City has definitive Deutsch lineage. And there’s good reason for that, as our region first drew German immigrants as far back as the 1830s, when Cincinnati’s business scene, driven largely by the meat-packing and shipping industries, made it a popular destination for mass immigration. The 1848 Revolution in the German states resulted in a renewed wave of international movement, and by 1850 some 60 percent of the city’s population was German-born immigrants. In 1881, there were even five major market German-language newspapers. Today, more than 25 percent of residents in the Cincinnati MSA (pop. 2.3M) claim German heritage.

There are, of course, numerous reasons early “Zinzinnatians” chose Cincinnati as their home away from homeland—there’s so much to love about this place, after all—but the strong business performance of Porkopolis was more than enough reason to settle by the Ohio River.

And today’s Cincinnati still holds a lot of appeal for German-owned businesses, largely for a similar reason—ours is a robust economy with many attractive draws for international business. We may no longer be the leading pork processor in the U.S., but with a top-ranked business climate; growing industries; convenient access to customers, markets and suppliers; and a talented workforce—not to mention the economic development team at REDI Cincinnati ready and able to help—our area is a popular destination for stateside operations of German companies.

Destination: Cincinnati
So why are we taking the time to look at this transatlantic relationship? Well, as it stands, Germany is No. 1 in regional foreign direct investment from European countries at 28 percent of the total. The United Kingdom, by comparison, comes in second at 18 percent, with France claiming third with 16 percent.

What does this look like on the ground, though? For starters there are 450+ foreign-owned firms in our region. More than 70 German employers operate in Greater Cincinnati, resulting in 10,000+ jobs for workers employed by German companies.

Drilling down even further, we can look at who these companies are to identify the massive local impact foreign-owned businesses have on our region. The largest German-owned employer in Cincinnati is DHL Express, Inc., which employs 4,500 workers at its Hebron distribution center. Next up is a tie between German family-owned company Mubea, Inc. and Robert Bosch Automotive Steering LLC, which both employ 1,300 workers in their respective Florence, Kentucky, locations.

A number of powerful business entities round out the list, including:

  • Siemens, Inc. (800 employees)
  • American Modern Insurance, Inc. (750)
  • Hubert Company LLC (350)
  • Festo Corp. (300)
  • Baluff Inc. (161)
  • Krauss-Maffei Corp. (147)
  • BOGE Rubber and Plastics USA LLC (124)

Another significant name on the list of German-owned businesses operating here in Cincinnati is Bilstein, a business unit of thyssenkrupp’s Automotive Technology business area, which employs 660 workers in the city of Hamilton. The global tier-1 automotive manufacturing leader (specializing in shock absorbers) opened up its North American headquarters facility in 1996 and has consistently chosen our region through a total of six campus re-investments. These initiatives enabled the company to enlarge its local workforce in a geographical area they recognize provides ease of product transport, a skilled workforce, support from the city and critical assistance from REDI Cincinnati and JobsOhio. The most recent Bilstein re-investment was an expansion that enabled the creation of 75 new jobs and $6M in payroll, and added 30,000 square feet of R&D and manufacturing space.

A Strong Trade Relationship
The positive relationship between Cincinnati and Germany extends beyond stateside operations and employment metrics—though there’s no denying these are powerful indicators of successful economies. But there’s also bustling and profitable trade between our region and Germany that benefits Cincinnati and Ohio at large in undeniable ways.

While we don’t have exact data on individual countries at the MSA level, we do know that 2022 Cincinnati exports to the European Union (not including the United Kingdom) totaled $6.7B. The primary exports Cincinnati sends overseas fall into the categories of transportation equipment, chemicals and machinery. On a state scale, we know that in 2023 Ohio exported $8.7B worth of goods to Europe, and $1.4B of these exports headed to Germany. Among the largest areas of export for Ohio was aerospace products and parts ($240M) and metalworking machinery ($105 million).

And looking in the other direction, Cincinnati imported $5.8B worth of goods from Europe in 2022. So the exchange of goods between the Queen City and the fatherland is, indeed, strong.

While most Cincinnatians are well aware of our fair city’s Germanic roots, it’s exciting to know that these roots have only grown stronger over time, producing a resilient and profitable economic relationship that bolsters both geographic regions, despite an ocean’s separation, well into the 21st century.