When in Germany, don't say 'final solution'

I just had an unnerving experience at the booth of Akron, Ohio at Hannover Fair here in Germany. Ohio representative Stephen Kidder described the concept of automated machinery replacing virtually all personnel in modern factories as "the final solution" in conversation with me. I responded, "I can't believe you said that!" and the young German woman he'd hired to work as his booth hostess, standing about one foot away from him, immediately added, "I am also shocked!"

Kidder (the name gave me hope) was unabashed and shrugged it off (dashing said hope). His only remark when I pointed out why this was a painful analogy to use was, "I can't stand all that political correctedness."

The lesson learned here is, to quote Fawlty Towers, when in the company of Germans, "don't mention the war!" Or, in my case at Hannover Fair, don't mention Hitler's master plan.

Oh, and the kicker? Kidder is president of German Link, Inc. based in Cleveland, OH, working on nurturing economic partnerships between the U.S. and Germany.

On a happier note about Ohio, it's their 14th year exhibiting at Hannover Fair, this year within the Factory Automation hall. The mini-pavilion of Ohio features both state and Akron reps schilling opportunities to invest in and partner with Ohio. Kidder compared his home state in "middle America" to Hannover being "middle Europe" - both sharing a heavy industrial base.

Building on MIT's rep for technological genius

The only other state exhibiting at Hannover Fair (Virginia and South Carolina reps were reportedly running around as visitors) was Massachusetts. Its location in the Energy hall (renewable and conventional power generation, transmission and distribution) was intended to play to that state's strengths. One of the six MA companies located in the state pavilion (the trip overseas has been fully funded by a quasi-governmental trust), CellTech Power is working on fuel cell technology in its first application - a battery charger for the military. (CEO Jeff Bentley concedes it's not exactly the renewable energy apps he's hoping come some day.) Bentley noted that Massachusetts has the highest concentration of fuel cell companies in the world, outside of Vancouver, BC, Canada.

Ohio popped up again, this time in the Energy building with the presence of the Ohio Fuel Cell Coalition. U.S. collegues in that hall include the University of South Carolina with a small booth space promoting its Center for Fuel Cells, as well as Parker Hannifin Corporation for its Fuel Cell Systems Business Unit.


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