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Austrian Lunch N Learn

Austrian born Karl Rudisser, of Blum, Inc. was our guest speaker who right away said Austria was not all about Waltzing and Weiner Schnitzel, one of the wonderful cuisine items served along with Knodel a bread dumpling and amazing hot Apple Strudel.

Karl grew up in the western mountains of Austria, near the border of Switzerland and Germany. In the mid 70’s he started working for Blum in the sales and marketing field at their headquarters in Austria and worked for two years at their London subsidiary. In 1978 he moved to Charlotte to start Blum, Inc. the USA subsidiary. Blum is a worldwide leader in kitchen cabinet hardware with sales over 1.6 billion US dollars worldwide. Today Karl is President and CEO and leads the US operation which has over 370 employees and has sales of approximately 170 million dollars.

The US is the 3rd largest trading partner with Austria just behind Italy and Switzerland. Austrian exports in 2011 are over 8 billion USD or about 30%.

Austrian best sellers in the US are automotive cars, engines, motorcycles, tourism, food and beverages, chemical and pharmaceuticals, metals and metal processing, energy and natural resources, consumer goods and lifestyle, electronics, interior décor and plastics.

Austria is the heart of Europe and there really is much more than just skiing and waltzing. Europe has market access to 500 million customers; Austria has market access to 70 million customers within 3 hours by car. Austria’s population is 8.2 million with 48.2 million within 400 km.

Austria has 450 subsidiaries located in the United States with 6 billion USD accumulated investments and 24,000 employees and they have further interest in US investments due to attractive costs and they need to follow their customers worldwide.

Austria has well developed infrastructures, a skilled and competent work force and high productivity as their country’s strong points. Austria ranks 27th out of 181 economies with regard to ease of doing business. Austria also has a significant assemblage of pharmaceutical companies based in the country, thus developing a focus of biotechnological skills.

Export incentives, political stability and low telecommunication costs make the Austrian business climate favorable. Another attractive factor is the fact that Austria has the most attractive taxation system in Europe and does not have a wealth tax or professional tax. Regional investment subsidies, a tax exemption on training and a training bonus for apprentices guarantees the country’s appeal.

Blum, Inc. US located in eastern Lincoln County participates in an Apprenticeship Program through CPCC where workers can attend classes at CPCC and work as an apprentice gaining hands-on knowledge. This is a win-win program for both the company and the employee.

A time for questions and answers followed with many participants wanting to know more.

Rhonda Hunter, Director of Operations at LEDA said “We provide the Lunch N Learns as a way of promoting a better understanding of our international companies locally and other companies abroad through the educational and informational aspects of experiencing and learning about their various homelands through them or others deeply steeped in their culture and economy through firsthand knowledge or study.” “We appreciate Karl Rudisser from Blum, Inc. sharing about Austria with us today”.

This is the fifth in the series; other previously experienced were Canada, Brazil, Germany and Japan. Where will we go next?