"Living my personal American Dream"

by Andy Koller, Assistant IT Manager


Going abroad is something that I wanted to do as long as I can remember. Little did I know back in 2005 that I would still be here in Michigan 10 years later!
As a child, my parents took me to the United States two times for vacation. We went to California first and later to Florida. Back in Austria I used to watch American Football on Sunday Nights. I’ve hosted Super Bowl parties and watched movies in English. Needless to say, I was very excited when I heard about TGW’s plan to expand to the North American market. Ermanco, Incorporated in Spring Lake, MI. Wait what, where? With all the excitement came a small portion of uncertainty, too.
That uncertainty went all but away when Jörg Bergmann, Markus Winkler and I visited Ermanco for a week in June 2005. It was a great week, everybody was so welcoming! We participated in the Ermanco Conveyor Institute, a three day training program designed for business partners to learn and understand the product and its application.
Discovering the area nearby was a huge surprise! West Michigan’s Lake Michigan shoreline is called the Gold Coast due to its endless miles of sandy beaches. Lake Michigan at its narrowest spot is still 80 miles wide so no matter where you look there is water all the way out to the horizon! It’s like being at the ocean but without the salt in the water. Spring Lake is at 43 deg North which is the same latitude as Marseille or Cannes. Summers do get really warm and humid while the winters are typically cold and snowy. Lake Michigan, despite its size and depth, manages to get its temperature up to 72-74F/22-23C during peak summer weekends. It is the perfect getaway right next to where you live!

On August 14, 2005, Mario Herndl, Markus Winkler and I embarked on our one year long assignment at TGW Ermanco. To this day I have fond memories of being picked up at the airport by Gordon Hellberg well after midnight to be shown to our apartments. There we discovered our fridge setup with a couple of grocery essentials. Small little things like that set the stage, I felt welcomed from day one! Fast forward 10 ½ years – I’m married to my wife Mary, a Michigan native, along with our 11 year old daughter, Ellie, in a subdivision in Grand Haven Township. It’s my own, personalized version of the American Dream, including a house in the typical subdivision layout. Living here in the States made me realize that practically every house in Austria has a fence or sometimes even a wall while a typical American subdivision house does not have a fence at all.

A lot has changed since 2005. Despite the growth and the expansion of two locations (Spring Lake and Grand Rapids), going to work still feels very much like those first days in August of 2005. Employee anniversaries are recognized, and every month we all root for a milestone anniversary as we then get treated with donuts once during that month. Besides work, my life has quieted down a little over the last 10 years. I enjoy spending time with my family. We love to travel and try to get to Austria at least every other year. My parents live there so seeing them is of course a priority. They just visited this winter and we spent Christmas together in Florida. I’ve also come to enjoy the responsibilities that you sign up for as a homeowner. There’s always a project around the house waiting to be tackled.
When thinking about America, usually the hot spots such as New York, Florida or California come to one’s mind. West Michigan is a well-kept secret though and watching a sunset over Lake Michigan never gets old!