Minnesota companies find luck in delivering to Deutschland

President Barack Obama presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to German Chancellor Angela Merkel at an official State Dinner in the Rose Garden on Tuesday.
REUTERS/Larry Downing
President Obama presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to German Chancellor Angela Merkel at an official State Dinner in the Rose Garden on Tuesday.

WASHINGTON — Minnetonka-based American Medical Systems has a corporate goal to expand their market. In Europe, it’s used Germany as a staging ground.

Western European markets are generally the easiest for American companies to expand into first, AMS Chief Financial Officer Mark Heggestad said. So when AMS, a medical device developer, manufacturer and seller, looked to go international, they made Germany one of their main operation centers.

AMS’s German sales force of more than 20 people is their largest internationally. They’ve also used the German market to test new sales techniques, such as salespeople specializing in certain device types. AMS had $542 million in sales in 2010; 30 percent of it internationally with their $25 million in German business the largest share of that.

“Germany is by far one of our biggest opportunities,” Heggestad said. The company’s philosophy: “If we can be successful there, we’ll expand into other markets.”

The United States is a year into President Obama’s plan to double the country’s exports within five years, though businesses in Minnesota say federal policy is unlikely to help dramatically stimulate trade with an ally as close as Germany. Regardless, trade was on the agenda during bilateral meetings with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House Tuesday.

“Germany is one of our largest trading partners,” he said, “and we discussed how to keep our economies growing and create the jobs that our people need.”

‘By far one of our biggest opportunities’
Minnesota exports to Germany total $727 million, and top products include computers and electronics ($302 million), miscellaneous goods, such as medical technology ($109 million) and machinery ($101 million).

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