Czech Republic's foreign minister, Jan Kohout, and its ambassador to the U.S., Petr Gandalovic, attend ribbon cutting in Hall County.

<p>George Novak, honorary consul general of the Czech Republic, and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagel greet each other at the official opening of the first Czech company in Georgia. Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout looks on.</p>

George Novak, honorary consul general of the Czech Republic, and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagel greet each other at the official opening of the first Czech company in Georgia. Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout looks on.

<p>From left to right: Hall County Chairman Dick Mecum, Oakwood Mayor Lamar Scroggs and Jan Maderic, CEO of ALBA-METAL.</p> <p>Left to right: Lindsay Roseler, CEO, ALBAform, Inc.; Jan Vintrlik, president and Monika Vintrrlikova, vice president.</p>

The decision to favor expansion in the United States instead of China or Russia partially explains his company’s move to Hall County, Jan Vintrlik, president of the Czech-owned, told Global Atlanta.

Also important was the strong friendship that had developed between his wife, Monika, and Kelly O’Donnell, an American from Dallas, when they were roommates in a study abroad program of the Largo, Fla.-based Schiller International University in the late 1990s.

Mrs. Vintrlikova’s father, Jan Maderic, is the CEO of ALBA-METAL, which manufactures metal components for the automotive industry and is the parent of

Located in the Moravia region in the southeast of the republic, ALBA-METAL started in the early 1990s as a cleaning company but by the middle of the decade focused on producing metal components for hospital beds and the automobile industry.

Among its early clients was a Czech manufacturer who was supplying products to the Skoda Auto manufacturer, a Czech firm that eventually became wholly owned by the Volkswagen Group.

In 2001, its client, the Czech manufacturer, also was acquired by a German firm, F.S Fehrer Automative Gmbh, and ALBA-METAL began to carefully develop its wire products for German auto manufacturers, Mr. Vintrlik said.

When Fehrer executives asked Mr. Maderic if he would consider helping them enter the U.S. market, he agreed based on the established friendship between his daughter and the O’Donnell family in Texas.

Mr. Vintrlik said that the two families often visited each other since his wife’s university days.

The O’Donnells, who have a variety of business interests in Dallas including a videoconferencing company and a manufacturer of hospital beds and furniture, helped ALBA-METAL set up, which quickly began to supply Fehrer with the wire components for its German manufacturing clients including Mercedes-Benz and BMW.

“All of our competitors in Europe are focusing on China and Russia,” Mr. Vintrlik said. “But here we see that the automobile sector is growing quickly and because of our friendships it made sense for us to move here.”

One of their competitors, AIT GmbH, however, wanted to close its operation near Flowery Branch and approached the Vintrliks about having them take over their operation.

Mr. Vintrlik said they agreed because Dallas was too far from their clients based in Alabama and South Carolina, while Georgia's location was ideal since it lay between them. Lindsay Roseler, a third roommate from the Madrid student days, accepted the CEO position at the facility located in the Oakwood South Industrial Park.

Although Mr. Vintrlik considers the company small and its investment of $2.1 million dollars relatively modest, the announcement has been considered an important milestone for the Czech Republic prompting George Novak, its honorary consul general based in Atlanta, to promote a formal ribbon cutting ceremony.

When Mr. Novak learned that the Czech foreign minister, Jan Kohout, would be attending the current United Nations session in New York, he asked his ambassador in Washington, Petr Gandalovic, to extend an invitation.

Mr. Kohout agreed and along with the ambassador attended the ribbon cutting ceremony on the morning of Sept. 23 where they were greeted by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and a host of local officials.

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