Why would economic development officials from the Czech Republic fly all the way to Flagler County to explore business opportunities?
“Why not?” said Helga van Eckert, executive director for Flagler County’s Department of Economic Opportunity. “When opportunities are presented to you, you have to be willing to take them. It's about networking and letting people know what we have to offer.”
The opportunity presented itself because of a connection with Aveo Engineering. The LED design and manufacturing company is one of the largest aerospace firms in the Czech Republic and expanded its operations to the United States when it broke ground in July 2013, in Flagler County, with the promise of eventually bringing 300 jobs here.
Aveo President Christian Nielsen recommended that officials from CzechInvest, an economic development organization similar to the county’s, see Flagler for themselves. And so, Jan Chmelik and Jan Fried toured the Flagler County Airport this week and also attended a meet-and-greet May 6, at the Flagler Chamber.
“It shows the different levels that Flagler County is reaching,” Airport Director Roy Sieger said. He is optimistic that aviation-related manufacturing companies can be attracted to Flagler.
Chmelik and Fried will visit other eastern U.S. cities on their tour, looking for networking opportunities for Czech companies.
Van Eckert sees their visit as a sign of the economic times. She said small companies can now compete with larger ones because of the Internet and shipping capabilities.
Also, she said, although Flagler might not be able to attract large companies of 1,000 or more employees, smaller companies can fit well in smaller counties — if they can find the right match.
And that means exploring all the options, including international connections, like those with the Czech Republic.