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Frankfurt: world's largest U.S. consulate a vital regional hub.

Frankfurt, the most international of German cities, has many unique aspects, including its diversity. Nearly 200,000 foreign residents from 180 nations comprise more than a quarter of the city's population of 690,000.

Beyond its diversity, Frankfurt is the banking and financial capital of the euro zone, with 300 major financial institutions, Europe's second largest stock exchange and the headquarters of the European Central Bank. It is a cultural and literary cornucopia as well, with 30 museums, 11 theaters and the largest book and media fair in the world. And, as many State Department employees have discovered, Frankfurt is critical for travel and logistics.

Frankfurt's role as a central hub is reflected in the work of the U.S. Consulate General, which focuses on bilateral relations and is a regional base of operations for Department offices having a focus well beyond Germany. In this capacity, Frankfurt is the biggest post in the U.S. Mission in Germany. In fact, with 900 employees, including more than 400 direct-hire Americans, working at the 17 agencies represented there, it is the largest U.S. consulate in the world.

"All of the agencies here have a distinct mission, but all of them come together to advance the goals of the U.S. government," said Management Counselor Mike McCarthy. "The 'whole-of-government' approach that we talk about in Washington really comes to life in Frankfurt."

The consulate's large interagency presence means that officers, even at an early stage of their careers, can get substantive, meaningful interagency experience. For example, a consular officer can speak directly with an IRS representative about an investor visa, and Diplomatic Security agents can consult with their FBI or DEA counterparts on ongoing cases.

"They don't just have superficial interactions. They consult on cases, conduct joint outreach and really get to see how each agency conducts its mission," said Charlie Wintheiser, chief of the consular section.

At this unusual post, most State Department offices are regionally focused. They provide logistical support to posts in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. For instance, 30 diplomatic couriers ensure the safe and secure delivery of packages and equipment across EUR, NEA and AF. Three regional consular officers serve as an information lifeline for a wide array of small consular posts.

The centerpiece of the Department's presence at post is the Regional Information Management Center (RIMC). Focused on solving engineering, technology and management problems, RIMC supports every post in EUR, NEA and AF, as well as several in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs.

"When there are phone problems in Paris or Rome or network issues in Tripoli, it is usually not the people at post who are fixing it. It is someone from here, from RIMC in Frankfurt," said Director Frontis Wiggins. "We dispatch people every day to all corners of Europe, the Middle East and Africa, both for urgent matters and in support of the Secretary's travel. Our staff are on the road more than 50 percent of the time performing expeditionary diplomacy as well as more routine functions, which are nonetheless urgent to the posts in question."

Frankfurt staff also experience many benefits associated with being in the heart of Europe, in one of the continent's most dynamic and cosmopolitan cities. Employees can sample a diverse selection of food and drink at more than 1,500 restaurants and bars that specialize in everything from traditional apple wine to Ethiopian, Persian and Malaysian cuisine. They can take in a theater or opera performance, or explore a zoo or museum. Because 52 percent of the city's land area is covered by green space, employees can go for a run or a ride after work on the excellent network of bike and jogging paths. Public transportation is superb, with nine subway lines and numerous buses and trolleys.

Travel beyond the city is easy as well. No car is necessary in this public transportation-friendly country, but many enjoy the chance to test their cars on the famous Autobahn system. Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels and Berlin are all less than four hours away by train.

The vast majority of State Department employees are housed in the 372-unit Carl Schurz compound, or Siedlung. Laid out over several city streets, the Siedlung boasts comfortable apartments that were originally built for the Allied High Commission during the post-World War II Occupation. Over 50 years, its streets and paths have taken on an unmistakably American character.

For some, the communal setting can be a bit intense. "Although it is great to have nearly all the comforts of home right on the Siedlung, it is also easy to miss out on real interaction with our German host community," said Vice Consul Mike Davis. "In fact, one of the first things my German friends notice when they come to visit is that it feels like they are in a whole new country--complete with charcoal grills not normally seen in Europe."

"People with families are happy with the housing situation," said Community Liaison Office Coordinator Janet Hartnett. "It is a great place for kids because it gives them an almost immediate network of friends, and many social events take place at our community field house. We are conveniently located near public transportation, which is easily accessible for teens who want to go into the city, to the malls or even to the movie theater. Since we live in a relatively safe and low-crime environment, it makes raising kids here easy."

It's also a great place to have dogs (Germans love their four-legged friends). "We travel with our dogs everywhere and hotels welcome them without question," Hartnett said. "Outdoor cafes are quick to offer dogs a fresh bowl of water or even treats. Close to the Siedlung are some wonderful parks for dog walking."

Most consulate employees agree that Frankfurt is an excellent place to take on substantive, interesting and varied work while enjoying a great quality of life in one of Europe's most connected and energetic cities.

RELATED ARTICLE: At a Glance Germany

Capital: Berlin

Government type: Federal republic

Area: 357,022 sq. km.

Comparative area: Slightly smaller than Montana

Population: 81.3 million

Language: German (official)

GDP--per capita: $39,100

Agricultural products: Potatoes, wheat, barley, sugar beets, fruit, cabbages, cattle, pigs and poultry

Export commodities: Motor vehicles, machinery, chemicals, computer and electronic products, pharmaceuticals, metals, transport equipment, food and textiles

Import commodities: Machinery, data processing equipment, vehicles, chemicals, oil and gas, metals, electric equipment, pharmaceuticals, food and agricultural products

Currency: Euro (EUR)

Internet country code: .de

By Carlo Boehm, vice consul, U.S. Consulate General in Frankfurt
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Title Annotation:Post of the Month
Author:Boehm, Carlo
Publication:State Magazine
Geographic Code:4EUGE
Date:Mar 1, 2013
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