The Saxon state capital of Dresden, with the adjoining cities of Meißen, Radebeul, Freital and Pirna, counts among the leading economic regions in the Free State of Saxony. The area between the Elbe Sandstone Mountains and the porcelain city of Meißen is able to look back upon a magnificent industrial history. For instance, the first passenger steamship was built in 1837 for the upper Elbe river in the Übigau city quarter, which at that time still lay outside the Dresden city limit. Two years later, the first German steam locomotive, the legendary “Saxonia”, was also built there. In 1900, Emil Nacke introduced the first Saxon motor car in Coswig, and in 1905 he also took up the production of motor trucks.
In the city of Freital, established in 1921, a steel mill was already located since the middle of the 19th century, whereas in Dresden for instance the centre of the camera and cinema equipment industry was situated in the 20th century. Here, in the 1930s the first monocular reflex camera was built, and also the first television by Manfred von Ardenne. The name of the small town of Glashütte, in the eastern Erz Mountains in front of Dresden’s gates, is known for wrist watches with an international reputation for quality. The cornerstone for the Dresden microelectronics location was laid at the beginning of the 1960s through the establishment of the Microelectronic Center Dresden (ZMD) and the Robotron enterprise (VEB Kombinat Robotron).
Based on this varied success story, the Dresden region could live up to its tradition after the fall of the Berlin Wall and simultaneously develop new industrial sectors. Of the 1,500 enterprises operating in the Saxon metal and electrical industry today, around 200 firms are based in the state capital, employing more than 20,000 people. In addition, numerous service providers and suppliers participate there.
In Dresden the mixture is right. Traditional economic sectors take up a steady position alongside the new settlements of the high-tech industry. Not only do important growth and development impulses spring from microelectronics, where more than twelve billion euros have been invested since the 1990s, but also from a highly innovative mechanical and plant engineering industry and a competitive aircraft industry. The solar industry has also established itself firmly in the Dresden region and it ensures the exportation of modern technologies for energy generation from here to the whole world.
Currently more than 80 organizations in the mechanical and plant engineering sector operate in Dresden alone. They employ more than 5,100 people and have an export ratio of over 40 per cent. The focal point lies in special and specialized machinery such as for the packaging industry, however also in drive and test engineering.
When a woman laid the cornerstone for aviation with a balloon flight in Dresden in 1811, it was not yet to be anticipated that, almost 200 years later, an important specialist supplier of the aircraft industry would be settled here. The Elbe Flugzeugwerke (aircraft works), with its conversion of passenger aircraft to freighter, is an eloquent example of the many organizations which, utilizing their traditions, turn Dresden into an innovative, dynamically growing economic region.
For the Dresden metal and electrical industry, the close proximity, and therewith the direct contact, with research is an important location advantage. In addition to the University of Technology, a variety of research institutions in the Saxon state capital – such as the Fraunhofer Institutes, the Max Planck Society or the Leibniz Association – have settled in the region and with their innovations live up to the inventive talent of the region.
Dresden and its surroundings are however also a magnet for qualified personnel from near and far. A high quality of education, interesting career opportunities and a liveable environment with a versatile range of offers of cultural, sport and leisure time activities, make Dresden a centre of attraction.
It is without a doubt the mixture between culture and science, between high-tech and tradition, quality of life and salesmanship that characterizes Dresden’s success. The Saxon state capital was again voted as the most dynamic city in Germany in a city comparison in 2008 by the Initiative Neue Soziale Marktwirtschaft (New Social Market Economy Initiative) and the Wirtschaftswoche (business magazine). This is because the economic conditions have developed here very well in the last five years.
The Saxon metal and electrical industry has a significant centre in Dresden, which makes a considerable contribution to the growth of this sector throughout Saxony.
The author studied mechanical engineering at the Dresden University of Technology. Since 2003, he has been the head of the largest Saxon industrial association, Sachsenmetall. Already in 1994, Mr Huhn was one of the founders of the Allgemeiner Arbeitgeberverband Sachsen, which today is under the umbrella of Sachsenmetall. He is the managing partner of Omeras GmbH, which specializes in enamelled panels, in Lauter near Aue.