On Wednesday October 9, the European American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Cincinnati (EACC) hosted the 2019 Transatlantic Business Outlook at the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce with over 80 guests in attendance. Thanks to the help of our friends and partners at Clark Schaefer Hackett, HSBC, the Greater Cincinnati
Foreign Trade Zones Inc., Porter Wright and Start Something Bold, the event was a great success!
After welcoming remarks from EACC Board President Yannick Schilly, Ryan Wang (Chief U.S. Economist for HSBC Securities) provided an outlook for the U.S. economy. He noted that most signs point to slowing growth (slowing job growth, rising wages, and falling business investment and exports), but that GDP growth of 1.7 percent over 2019 is still anticipated. He pointed out that the risks of tariffs impacting U.S. manufacturers and consumers is leading to some diversion of trade, particularly away from China as tariff payments to the U.S. Government have more than doubled. But consumers in particular seem confident in a strong job market – so there is good reason to plan for continued (if slowing) growth into the next year.
Paul Miklautsch, Co-Founder of Start Something Bold, then presented the results of our “Transatlantic Manufacturing Executive Survey." The intent was to get a better sense of how manufacturers in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana are preparing for 2020 and beyond – is their perception of the business environment different from the global or national overview? 78 percent of our respondents (that is, top executives at manufacturing firms in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana) said they have a positive outlook for their local company in 2020; 75 percent said they anticipate U.S. and global economic growth to remain steady or slow. Just over half of respondents said they plan investments in smart manufacturing technologies and data analytics in the next three to five years. We are working with Paul to organize a webinar in the next few weeks to review these results in more detail, so stay tuned!
After a coffee break, the event resumed with a panel discussion on Tariffs and Trade. Eric Schnieber, who leads the Manufacturing and Distribution Industry Group at Clark Schaefer Hackett, moderated the panel which included Jeffrey Bender, Executive Managing Director at Cushman & Wakefield and a Board Member for the Greater Cincinnati Foreign Trade Zones; Gary Ellerhorst, President and CEO of Crown Plastics; and Will Sjoberg, a partner at Porter Wright. The theme of the discussion was that trade uncertainties are certainly making it more difficult to plan for the future, but that there are a broad range of tools (tariff engineering, shifting supply chains, establishing a foreign trade zone) that firms can exploit to manage their risk.
The final panel was on “Cross-Fertilizing Workforce Development” and explored how European and American firms (here and across the Atlantic) are trying to address the problem we all face – recruiting, training, and retaining the skilled labor needed in a 21st century economy. Led by Peter Olmsted, Clark Schaefer Hackett’s Director of Executive Talent, our expert panel included Andreas Brockman, Head of Technical Training and Education at Festo Didactic; Debby Combs, Industry Partnerships Director with Partners for a Competitive Workforce; Jon Graft, Superintendent and CEO at Butler Tech; and Fabian Schmahl, President and CEO at ThyssenKrupp Bilstein. There are lots of great examples of companies proactively engaging students and parents and teachers to attract talent, but the key to success is just that – companies cannot passively wait for employees to come to them. And Fabian Schmahl pointed out that Bilstein’s success in engaging and empowering its frontline employees has been so successful in improving retention and productivity that the program is now being implemented at Bilstein in Germany.
When we surveyed attendees, 100 percent told us the event had been worth their time; they overwhelmingly said that the speakers and panels met or exceeded their expectations. We’re incorporating their feedback as we start planning to continue the conversation with a series of other events leading up to the Transatlantic Business Outlook 2020!