CHESTER, NOVA SCOTIA — While GN Thermoforming Equipment's 92 Chester employees celebrate Canada Day, their colleagues in Jihlava, Czech Republic, are celebrating the July 1 opening of a new 10,764-square-foot service center.
The company has had a modest but increasingly mighty presence in the Czech Republic since the mid-2000s with an office for sales representatives. The Jihlava facility will offer new space for the sales and service team, soon expected to grow to seven employees, as well as a showroom, demonstration area and training facility to cover the company's product line of thermoformers and auxiliary equipment catering to the food packaging industry.
Why set up shop in the Czech Republic?
"It's a great place to do business," explained Jerome Romkey, GN's marketing manager. "From a cost point of view, it's certainly less expensive than Western Europe."
Jihlava is just two hours from Vienna, Austria, home town of Georg Nemeskeri, GN's founder and president, and is strategically located close to Western Europe with easy access to growing markets in Central and Eastern Europe as well as the Middle East, Romkey added.
Although seemingly a remote location, Romkey said that it's near enough to major international airports in Frankfurt, Germany, and Zurich, Switzerland, to make the trip fairly painless even for GN buyers or customers in the Americas.
Romkey said, for instance, that it's typically easier, less expensive and more direct to travel from Mexico to the Czech Republic than from Mexico to Canada.
Add in a highly educated and multi-lingual workforce, Romkey said, and the leap from rural Nova Scotia, on Canada's East Coast, to a place nearly smack dab in the middle of Europe, isn't hard to fathom.
Marek Nikiforov, GN's European sales director fluently speaks not only his Czech mother tongue, but also English, German and Russian — great for business expansion. And he's functional in Spanish — a bonus for GN's Mexican customers.
All of the company's manufacturing, however, is done in Chester, less than an hour's drive west of Halifax.
"We ship from Chester," Romkey said. Most of the equipment headed for North American destinations moves out by truck, Romkey said, while thermoformers going to other continents travel by sea container.
"Halifax has a super port that doesn't freeze," Romkey noted, and a bustling container terminal.
GN Thermoforming Equipment was established in 1981 and has some 1,500 machines in service in 68 countries.