German consulate general speaks at UM

Published 4:24 pm Monday, March 2, 2009

U.S. German Consulate General Lutz H. Grgens spoke to a packed classroom at the University of Montevallo on Feb. 27, marking the conclusion of the university’s International Lecture Series.

A native of Düsseldorf, Germany, Grgens was named consulate general in 2007 and serves as the official representation of the German government to the southeastern U.S. The southeastern district includes Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. His office is based in Atlanta.

Grgens began his lecture by illustrating the close economic ties between Alabama and Germany. Few people in the audience knew that German immigrants founded the now-defunct Lehman Brothers investment firm in Montgomery in 1850. Grgens said Lehman Brothers was pivotal to Alabama’s survival after the Civil War.

More than a century later, German companies like Mercedes-Benz and ThyssenKrupp have invested in the state. Grgens was adamant the current economic crisis will not jeopardize the companies’ futures in Alabama.

“They are here for good and they are confident this crisis will be over sooner or later,” he said.

Grgens said the economy is testing the resilience of transatlantic partnerships. Though the partnerships have garnered big successes over the years, Grgens said success is not immune to setbacks.

“I have never experienced in my professional life a moment of true global crisis,” he said. “But the beauty of transatlantic partnerships is the emotional connection … the fun people have when they work together. I hope (the partnerships) produce a good result.”

William Rupp, dean of the Michael E. Stephens College of Business, fielded questions for Grgens after the 30-minute lecture. Gorgens wasn’t the only consulate general to speak at this year’s series. U.S. British Consulate General Martin Rickerd spoke on Feb. 24.

The lecture series was sponsored by the Stephens College of Business and the UM Office on International Services.