World Cup of FDI: Which U.S. Metro Areas May Hold Closet Germany Fans?

When the United States and Germany meet on the World Cup soccer field in Recife, Brazil on Thursday, new research from the Brookings Institution suggests that some allegiances might not lie where we’d think.

Fully 512,000 U.S. workers receive their paycheck from a German company. Thanks to new data on foreign direct investment (FDI) in U.S. metro areas released last week, we know where to look for the likeliest turncoats.

In terms of sheer numbers, New York, NY houses the most Americans—45,000 of them—with a German employer, followed by Detroit (21,500), Chicago (19,600), Los Angeles (13,200), and Spartanburg, SC (12,600)—BMW’s U.S. home. Relative to overall size, though, Allentown, Chattanooga, and Greensboro house the highest concentrations of potential Germany fans among the country’s major metro areas. In Allentown and Chattanooga, German companies employ 2 percent of the entire workforce. Allentown’s strategic access to the populous Eastern Seaboard makes it a preferred location for German multinationals like Robert Bosch, Braun Melsungen, Heidelberg Cement, Wacker Chemical, and Linde, while Volkswagen and ThyssenKrupp serve as Germany AG’s primary outposts in Chattanooga.

German FDI Map small

Keep an eye on Portland, OR, where FIFA corporate sponsor Adidas has its U.S. headquarters too.  Meanwhile Continental, another sponsor, has woven itself into automotive industry supply chains in Detroit, Huntsville, San Antonio, and even Virginia Beach.

Of course, Thursday’s game could end in a draw which sees both countries advance. Such a win-win situation might be a good allegory for the U.S.-Germany investment relationship too. In total, German companies had $199 billion worth of FDI deployed in the United States in 2012, while the U.S.-based companies had $121 billion worth of direct investment at work in the (much smaller) German economy at the same time. 

A little healthy competition benefits everyone, after all.