Where you get to meet the entire world

Mechthild Heil (CDU), member of the German Bundestag, visited Dr. Eckel Animal Nutrition

Cerulean blue skies, lush green meadows and fragrant rose bushes— it was almost like Dr. Eckel Animal Nutrition’s headquarters in Niederzissen was decked out in its Sunday best to mark the occasion of receiving visitors after not having had any for more than a year due to the pandemic. Dr Antje Eckel and her staff were all the more pleased to host Mechthild Heil, long-time member of the Bundestag, the German federal parliament, for the constituency of Ahrweiler and member of the state association of the CDU.

Dr. Eckel Animal Nutrition is one of six companies in the region a scientific study recently identified as hidden champions: companies demonstrating exceptional innovative capabilities and economic strength. Both their location in the Ahrweiler district and their worldwide success are the hallmarks of these thriving Mittelstand companies.

How has coronavirus affected these companies and their employees? And what has Dr. Eckel done to make working in these difficult circumstances a more positive experience for the company and the employees alike? These were but two of the issues Mechthild Heil wanted to cover during her visit. Others included current challenges such as exports and supply chains, and access to the labour market for international high potentials, a major issue for the company, which is considered a pioneer for innovative and sustainable additives in the animal feed industry.

A recent Focus Business study identified Dr. Eckel as a top employer among Mittelstand companies. Although it is firmly established in the region and retains the sustainable values of a classic family business, Dr. Eckel is remarkably cosmopolitan: the company’s highly qualified experts come from more than 20 countries spread across the globe—from South America to Asia, from Europe to Africa. Apart from German, English is spoken as a matter of course. Guido Grassi, Dr. Eckel’s latest acquisition filling the new post of Chief Operating Officer, was quick to point this out. The native Argentinian who previously worked for animal health multinational Elanco in Thailand described his first few days at Dr. Eckel, saying, “It’s great: you come to Germany, to a small rural region, and you literally get to meet the entire world in one place.”

Guido Grassi’s move from Thailand to Germany was no trivial matter, even for the experienced cosmopolitan, due to the global coronavirus pandemic. It took a whole lot of filling in applications, talking and convincing to get the move, including visas for the family of five, sorted. Mechthild Heil proved to be a major help. And Guido Grassi finally had the opportunity to thank her for all she did personally. Antje and Bernhard Eckel were also eager to express their immense gratitude. “Without Mechthild Heil’s intervention, it would have taken much longer,” said Bernhard Eckel. “Her knowledge and help were crucial. She listens to what her constituents have to say and understands their human and business needs and challenges.”

The meeting, which was as friendly as it was productive, once again showed all participants how valuable and important personal contact is. Despite all the great opportunities of digitisation and technology, such meetings will always be of immeasurable value.