WIESBADEN, Germany - Transformation of the greater Wiesbaden military community will also impact the host nation economy.
With that in mind, U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden leaders met with more than 260 members of the Wiesbaden Chamber of Industry and Commerce and local citizens Feb. 15. Their aim was to provide insight to business leaders, landlords and other interested parties on how construction; an increased American population of about 3,000 Soldiers, civilians and family members; and other factors are already benefiting the local economy financially, culturally and by expanding on years of a closely knit German-American friendship.
"The turnout shows how important this subject is for Wiesbaden," said Joachim Nolde, chief executive officer for Wiesbaden's Chamber of Industry and Commerce, pointing out that with the construction of a new 326-unit housing complex at Wiesbaden Army Airfield, a brand new Mission Command Center and other projects, "that's reason enough for this event -- how can we get along even better?"
Col. David Carstens, USAG Wiesbaden commander, described the ever-changing face of the Wiesbaden military community, which includes installations situated in about a 30-square-mile area in and around Wiesbaden. Detailing the major ongoing projects to meet the needs of members of U.S. Army Europe Headquarters as they transition from Heidelberg to Wiesbaden in 2012 and the ensuing years, Carstens said, "We are extremely proud of these projects because of the wonderful partnership we have had with our contractors and our host nation partners."
The effort to reduce and consolidate U.S. Forces in Germany is part of an overall Defense Department decision, he said.
Like most U.S. Army garrisons around the globe, USAG Wiesbaden's is rich with different levels of services and support, but "there are lots of areas where we will turn to you for more variety in services," Carstens informed listeners.
"The bond of cooperation that we have with this great community already exists," he said, pointing out how regular exercises with German first responders and the Bundeswehr help ensure the safety and security of all members of the U.S. and German population.
"But we don't just work together. We also have fun together," he said, looking backward and forward to the many cultural and social occasions where Germans and Americans join one another to share experiences.
With the increased population, comes a need for many more off-post rental properties, said Donald Meyer, USAG Wiesbaden housing manager. Sought are apartments and houses for rent within a 50-kilometer radius of Wiesbaden, while military families with school-age children will especially be in need of dwellings that are situated roughly within 25 kilometers of local Department of Defense Dependents Schools and on local DoDDS bus routes.
Dr. Robert Schloesser, USAG Wiesbaden's director of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation, pointed out the many opportunities for joint ventures with surrounding communities -- partnerships in local traditional fests such as holiday markets and wine fests. He invited local businesses to sponsor military community events and explained how the Value Added Tax relief program benefits both U.S. military community members and local vendors. "Americans don't like to pay the 19 percent tax if they don't have to," he said, explaining that once vendors get used to using the VAT forms, they are usually surprised by the increased business of American shoppers.
Schloesser also said a German-American Friendship Fest in Mainz-Kastel is in the planning stages for July of this year.
Jan Meert, Wiesbaden Army Community Service director, talked about the many programs in place to help newcomers learn about local cultural opportunities and getting around in Germany. Having English-language signs, information and speakers available greatly assists those new to Wiesbaden. "If you can help me, help the families, that would be greatly appreciated," she said.
Following presentations by several other garrison and city officials, members of the audience were invited to ask questions. They ranged from how to increase German-American student partnerships to specific requirements for housing -- whether furnished or unfurnished quarters are sought. "We'll take both," said Meyer.
Throughout the evening both German and American speakers directed listeners to the many online resources available to continue the dialogue and promote partnerships. Anemone Rueger, USAG Wiesbaden's Public Affairs officer, and Simone Zagrodnik, Wiesbaden's tourist service director for the city's Marketing Office, described German and English information pages and links readily accessible at www.wiesbaden.army.mil and www.wiesbaden.de/en/index.php.