AmCham: We know we are asking you to be on the opposite side of the table to answer questions, rather than to be the one asking them,… But you have been so busy doing interesting things during the end of the year period, we think this all is worth sharing… and likewise, we have for some time wanted to give you a chance to tell the AMCHAM story, which you have been such an important part of for the past 25 years.
Paul Schonenberg: I fully understand. But I do admit this is just a little bit embarrassing for me, so bear with me until I get more relaxed talking about what we are doing…
Let’s start by asking you to tell us how AMCHAM has developed from a small bilateral Chamber of Commerce into its present form.
About 30 years ago, the US Ambassadors in Europe met, discussed and agreed it would be a good idea to promote the suggestion that US companies located in Europe would benefit from some sort of self-funded networking structure connecting them all together. The Ambassadors thought such a structure would beneficially allow these companies to share information and ideas, make connections and thereby benefit all of the US companies involved in the Marshal plan for the rebuilding of Europe. The consequence was the creation all across Europe of a network of AMERICAN CHAMBERS OF COMMERCE (AMCHAMs) all chartered by the US Chamber of Commerce and organized as the Federation of AMCHAMs in Europe (ACE for short). In Luxembourg, PWC and Arendt and Medernach took the lead in creating our AMCHAM.lu which was chartered by the US Chamber 28 years ago with founding offices in the Arendt building at the beginning.
What happened from those humble beginnings?
Well, 25 years ago, when I started to work for Clearstream, I volunteered to help the 85 member AMCHAM.lu and took a leadership role after one year of volunteer service. My first task was to conduct a survey of the member’s views of their structure and objectives. The result was a commitment to undertake and provide four specific focuses of activities going forward:
- Networking (in English language) to connect the members together and with the other organizations of interest to them
- Providing information about How Luxembourg worked
- Problem solving to bring into Luxembourg better solutions for common problem areas faced by the member companies
- Engaging and communicating with governmental entities to explain the needs of Expat international companies in an effort to ensure Luxembourg was an attractive domiciliation location into which companies could beneficially locate to do business in Europe.
These four pillars of activities are what AMCHAM.lu still focuses its attention to do… and we do this via a group of 17 subcommittees to ensure we have access and influence in every area of the Luxembourg economy.
We are very proud based on this model to have grown into a melting pot of companies (30% US companies, 20% Luxembourg origin Companies and 50% companies from around the world), which together constitute the largest and most active private Chamber of Commerce in Luxembourg with all member companies enjoying equal status and treatment.
Has AMCHAM been hurt by Covid?
Yes! During Covid, we lost some companies that went out of business or merged together and circumstances made it difficult to network, to visit together or individually with companies for a full two years. So for the last 6 months we have been aggressively rebuilding and I am pleased with the results we have had so far and from the support of our members. I am particularly pleased by our best ever thanksgiving event and our two Christmas events. I likewise am very pleased with the success of our weekly digital Newsletter initiative. In this new year we will continue the process of relaunching all of our committees and also putting on an expanded list of big central events as we continue to rebuild the committee structure.
We have heard you have personally received some special recognition lately. Tell us about that.
Well first and foremost I am proud and pleased that my AMCHAM colleagues have in the most recent months voted to re-elect me again as the Chairman and CEO of AMCHAM. I am very happy to be appreciated and have this opportunity to continue to serve!
At the same time, I was pleased to be invited to attend the Annual General Meeting of the National Council of Foreigners (CNE), where five years ago I finished a five year mandate as the first CNE President directly elected by the foreign community, rather than appointed by the government. Running this organization was quite a challenge because of the many different points of views and perspectives of the various members. I was especially pleased at this AGM to be given a letter of appreciation signed by the Luxembourg Minister of Family, Madam Cahen along with a medal honoring me for my five years of service as President of the CNE.
And finally, I was honored when I attend the Spangdahlem Air Force Base Christmas Party (where I serve on the Wing Commander’s Community Representative’s Council) to be recognized and appointed as the honorary Commander of the 48th Fighter Squadron, the newest of the Wing’s force projection squadrons.
Lastly, as every year for the last 10 years, I was and am pleased to be honored to be included by Delano in their official listing of the most important people for the economy of Luxembourg.
Most especially with all of these various recent honors, I feel validated and appreciated for my service and my contributions. I am pleased and proud to continue to have the possibility to make a contribution, and very glad my efforts are considered worthy and appreciated! I will do my very best to continue to give my best service on behalf of you all as long as I am able and wanted!
Thank you all for empowering me to live my present life as a life of service!
Is there anything you would ask our members to do to help?
I am always happy to encourage all of our members to be more involved rather than less. At the end of the day, AMCHAM is their AMCHAM, not mine. So I am very happy for AMCHAM member companies (and their employees) to volunteer to actively participate on committees , join and participate in our events, to offer event and activity sponsorship … and to help us with additional Newsletter articles, new reader sign-ups and new members! So please be selfish and actively involved … both you and us will be happy when you do that!