10 Years GACC West

For its 10 year anniversary, the GACC West traveled through time and revisited over 150 years of German entrepreneur- ship in the Bay Area and beyond.

It is not every day that a Chamber of Commerce ages a decade. The GACC West duly celebrated its decennial on October 21st in San Francisco by gathering the board members of the German American Chamber of Commerce New York and other top ranking representatives of the Bay Area business community to celebrate, network and expand horizons. Participants were thoroughly entertained by an exciting full-day program, featuring a symposium and concluded by an exclusive anniversary dinner, which the Chamber put together in honor of the occasion.

The celebration was set off by the half-day German Innovation Symposium which took place at Bechtel Conference Center in San Francisco – an event kindly supported by the “Konrad Adenauer Stiftung.” The conference showcased the innovation power of German companies such as BMW, Carl Zeiss, Smaato and Robert Bosch throughout different high-tech industry sectors in the Silicon Valley and Germany. With words of warm welcome, Dr. Sabine Hepperle of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs & Energy opened the symposium. Among the renowned speakers were Dr. Burton Lee (Stanford School of Engineering), Ludwig Willisch (BMW) and Ralf Kuschnereit (Carl Zeiss). In two panel discussions, the innovation experts discussed how the German “Mittelstand” has been reinventing itself over decades and how German e-mobility trends drive innovation worldwide.

Following a successful symposium, One Market Restaurant in San Francisco opened its doors to herald the most festive part of the day: The GACC West Anniversary Dinner. As one of the special guests, Felix Neugart of the Association of German Chambers of Industry welcomed around 65 prominent guests of the German-American business community who enjoyed an exquisite anniversary menu, while learning curious facts about German entrepreneurship in the Bay Area from the Gold Rush until today. In a time-lapse presentation, GACC West Managing Director Rene van den Hoevel took his audience on an interactive journey featuring long-established Bay Area companies like Levi’s and Bayer HealthCare, as well as young startups like MINE Inc. – all of them united in one room and sharing two commonalities: their German origin and a venturing spirit. An evening full of stories about early and late German pioneers in the Bay Area demonstrated the sometimes impalpable but deeply-rooted impact Germans had and still have on Californian economy and culture. Vivid images and present guests illustrated how famous Germans like Adolph Sutro, Levi Strauss, Hartmut Esslinger (Frog Design) and Rolf Herken (MINE Inc.) have influenced the Bay Area’s character with their innovative mentality and enterprising ideas.

“In tonight’s game, the San Francisco Giants won 7:1 in the World Series. This illustrates how I feel about the entire trip and the GACC West’s 10 year anniversary celebrations: Both have been great successes and the Chamber in San Francisco can be proud of its accomplishments.”
Dietmar Rieg

As another tribute to its milestone completion, the GACC West also published its limited edition anniversary book “German Entrepreneurship in the Bay Area & Beyond”. Distributed as a present to all guests and select German subsidiaries, the book offers a detailed look on the economic and cultural development of the Bay Area from a German perspective and recaps the experiences and steady growth of the San Francisco-based Chamber over the past ten years. Similar to the first German pioneers of the Gold Rush times, who paved the way for all following German settlers and merchants with experience and an established network, the German American Chambers of Commerce provide support for German companies entering the U.S. market today. Even though the history of the GACC West is fairly young, the network of German American Chambers of Commerce dates back many years and has been vital for the success of many companies in the Bay Area and throughout the U.S. The GACCs are part of a global network of 130 chambers in 90 countries, offering a membership network and providing support for German small and mid-size companies trying to venture abroad. With the ever-growing importance of the Silicon Valley for the U.S. economy, an office in San Francisco was established in 2004 to help promote transatlantic trade on the West Coast and focus on innovative industries, such as IT, biotech and renewable energies. It is a known fact that the Bay Area in Northern California represents a major economic region in the U.S. and is one of the most unique innovation centers in the world. It offers the perfect breeding ground for trailblazing ideas, strong-selling products and services, and is home to the largest and fastest growing companies in North America. One seventh of all U.S. patents are granted and over 40% of all global venture capital is invested here. The area is known to welcome entrepreneurs and unconventional thinkers from all over the world. German pioneers in particular have shaped the spirit and character of the Bay Area - from banks to breweries, some of California’s first big corporations were established by Germans and are still successfully operating today. Thus, the decision to open up a new branch office in San Francisco did not come as a surprise and has been an important step to grow transatlantic trade on the West Coast.
The celebration, as well as the creation of the anniversary book, was kindly supported by the Paramount Group, Inc., BSH Home Appliances, MINE Inc. and Carroll Burdick & McDonough. With regards to information and content, GACC West’s partners Germany Trade and Invest and the Bay Area Economic Council made valuable contributions to the Festschrift. Considering its great partnerships, an outstanding anniversary celebration that concluded ten successful years, the GACC West can look into a bright future with a growing office that is reflecting the growth of transatlantic trade and relations.

“Back in the day, German pioneers came to California to hunt for gold. Today, they are not looking for gold, but for tomorrow’s greatest talents and innovations.”
Rene van den Hoevel


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