A GREAT Long Weekend: Promoting trade thousands of miles apart…

This post is part of an archived series of blogs called The LeVine Line, written by former Ambassador Suzan G. LeVine during her time at U.S. Embassy Bern.

13 February 2016

A couple of weeks ago, I had a sequence of experiences over a 4 day period that really demonstrate the strength, innovation, and investment in our bilateral economic relationship.


  • Mid-Day – We attended the Biogen groundbreaking in Lutenbach, Solothurn. It was thrilling to help shovel the first piles of dirt for this CHF 1 Billion investment where this American company with Swiss roots will be employing hundreds of talented people right in the heart of Switzerland. In approximately 4 years – the time during which they hope to get FDA approval on an anti-Alzheimer’s drug – they plan to open their doors on a state of the art facility manufacturing one of the most important drugs of our time!
  • Afternoon – We then went to a visit to Ruag/Ruag Space with Governor Hickenlooper of Colorado to talk about Ruag’s footprint in the US in both Colorado and Alabama.
  • Evening – The cherry on top was a dinner with a delegation of business, philanthropic, academic, and government leaders – including the Governor – from Colorado.  They were doing a debrief from 4 days on the ground diving deep into the Swiss apprenticeship model. Inspiring is a complete understatement to how we felt when each person in the room committed to setting up an effective and deep ecosystem throughout Colorado to address the need for skilled labor and the need to provide great paths for youths and adults alike! Here’s a great write-up of their trip from one of the members of the delegation, Richard Lewis.

I flew from Switzerland to Chicago on Sunday and then….


I spoke about the strength of the Swiss/Liechtenstein-American relationships at the following gatherings

  • Breakfast with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs breakfast w/Liechtenstein Honorary Consul Paul Donohue, Consuls General from across the globe, Business leaders, Government and Trade leaders.
  • Second-breakfast with a group of business and government leaders assembled at a local law firm, Sidley Austin.
  • Lunch with the Swiss American Business Council w/the Swiss Honorary Consul Jürg Oberschmid and an array of business leaders from Swiss companies in the US or US companies with a Swiss footprint. Here are some of the pics.

At all of these, I shared the state of our relationship – including talking about our apprenticeship efforts, global entry, the fact that exports from Switzerland to the US and imports from the US to Switzerland are both up over 30% over the past 5 years (and close to flat for most other traditional top Swiss partners)


I attended the launch of Zurich Insurance Group’s insurance apprenticeship program. In partnership with Harper College, Zurich is launching the first insurance apprenticeship program in the United States. The apprentices will work in Zurich 3 days/week – rotating through various sections – and then attend customized classes at Harper 2 days a week. Throughout all of this, they earn a salary and their community college tuition is paid for by Zurich Insurance.  After their apprenticeships are done, they will have excellent skills, a great job, and an Associate’s degree in business administration. This is significant in so many ways –

  • As the first of its kind, this program will set the standard around this type of apprenticeship in the US
  • It diversifies and increases the prestige for what folks associate with the term “apprenticeship”.
  • Zurich is taking a leadership role in not just rolling it out for themselves, but also in bringing in their competitors (or coopitors if you think about it!) to create a more viable ecosystem.

I also got to meet many of the 24 apprentices in the inaugural group and was very energized by their stories. I only wish I could have spent more time with them! Here’s more about my experience.

And here’s an article in the Chicago Daily Herald

Here is the overall photo album from the trip to Chicago

Fly home….

What an amazing long weekend!  And here’s to many more like it in the coming months!