Dr. rer. pol. Werner Widuckel: Companies demonstrate social responsibility

The interaction between developments in companies and regional locations has become a significant competitive factor. From the companies’ point of view, the focus has traditionally been on infrastructure (sites, transport connections), availability of qualified workforce, the potential for education, science and re­­search and the proximity of complimen­tary businesses (suppliers, technology partners). However, these factors are not enough to stimulate economic development. Additional measures are necessary to make the relevant location an attractive place to live. This is why the social infrastructure (schools, health care, cul­­ture, shopping facilities, residential con­­ditions, social environment) are of equal importance to companies. Thus, the cir­­cumstances often referred to as “soft” location factors turn out to be critical elements in the competition for qualified workforce. This is why competitive, strong companies depend on strong re­­gional partners. Therefore companies have to build supportive relationships with their surrounding regions. To achieve this, on the one hand, companies must commu­nicate their development requirements to the region, on the other, they must in turn become an integral part of the re­­gion­­al development. Because the tar­­gets of regional development cannot be unilat­erally determined by one com­­pany. These targets are influenced by a wide variety of interest groups and in addition, they are embedded in a frame­work of institutions and regulations, which are par­tic­­ularly involved in the fulfilment of sovereign functions (for instance, bu­­siness promotion, re­­gional planning).

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For all these reasons, we need sustain­able and reliable cooperation, which on the one hand, consistently pursues its own interests but on the other, is also able to support in­­te­­­­gra­tion and positions itself in the broad­­er con­­text of regional development. To promote this aim, the region of Ingolstadt established the re­­gional management initiative “Re­­gional­management Re­­gion Ingol­­stadt e.V.” (IRMA) in 2008. It is organized as an association, whose founding mem­­bers include the local authorities of the city of Ingolstadt and the counties of Eichstätt, Neuburg-Schroben­hau­­sen and Pfaffenhofen. However, the initiative was from the very start conceived as a pub­­lic-private collaboration, which is why it was co-founded by the companies AUDI AG, Bauer AG, EADS, Edeka Süd and Media Saturn AG. The association itself and certain priority projects are funded through membership fees.

What local authorities, companies and IRMA have in common is the shared con­­viction that intensive collaboration in de­­termining development goals for the re­­gion and in realizing projects can ac­­ti­­vate new and additional potentials, which will benefit all parties involved. An ac­­tiv­ity concept for regional development iden­­­­ti­­fies four fields of action which need to be dealt with. These fields of ac­­tion are: economy, education and sci­­ence, tourism and visibility of the region.

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The economy field of action places its focus on identifying possible areas of cooperation between local companies. It develops conceptual approaches on the subjects of lightweight construction and marketing. In addition, and with the sup­­port of the TU Munich and the Cath­­olic University of Eichstätt, it is current­ly un­­dertaking an analysis of further areas of cooperation to pinpoint existing po­­tentials for innovation and sys­­tem­­atical­ly assess their strength. Another priority issue in the economy field of action is improving the access of medium-sized businesses to regional universities and their research facilities. In the education and science field of ac­­tion, people are currently drawing up an analysis of the regional educational infrastructure in the framework of a baseline study. It will pro­­vide indications on where complementary or improvement measures are nec­­essary. In this context, particular consideration will be given to defining the priorities for the expansion of the In­­gol­­stadt Uni­ver­­sity of Applied Sciences, which is currently taking place. In a first implemen­tation project, an internation­al school was es­­tablished in Ingolstadt, whose firm foundation will be guaranteed through the intensive collaboration between com­­panies and local authorities. The tourism field of action is current­­ly analyzing potentials that might open up growth opportunities. The ongoing analysis pro­­cess has shown that the joint development of tourist attractions and the fur­­ther development of the tour­­ism in­­frastructure are appropriate means of gen­­erating additional potential. Co­­or­­di­­­nat­ed business development strategies will have to be agreed. The region’s vis­­ibility is to be enhanced through var­­ious measures. These include a regional por­­tal, a tourism portal and an edu­­­cation/training portal, all of which will soon start operating. The core element in promoting visibility will be a regional development guideline, which will create a consistent and genuine profile of the region to be presented internally and externally. This guideline is cur­­rent­­­­ly be­­ing prepared in four future workshops with the participation of about 250 cit­­izens who constitute relevant multipliers and stakeholders of the re­gional civil society. Another focal point within the visibility field of action is the area of culture, where the interna­tional Simon Mayr Festival was initiated and a Euro­­pean jazz academy was established to highlight and further de­­velop the cultural strengths of the region.

However, the strategic orientation of IRMA and the issues addressed in the fields of action are not decided upon in isolation, but they are linked to MMR projects in a targeted approach. We do not see IRMA and MMR as competing organizations, but as partners complimenting each other. Because a meaning­­ful development strategy for the region of Ingolstadt can only be defined in the context of the metropolitan region. This applies to all fields of action. That is why AUDI AG participates in both IRMA and MMR.

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In summary, we can state that IRMA, as a public-private cooperation, has be­­come an integral part of regional de­­vel­opment, where businesses not only come up with demands but make a con­­scious decision to become integrated in­­to re­­gional development processes. Thus, IRMA also demonstrates the regional commitment of companies. This is also confirmed by the increasing number of members.

VOR090013_medium-orange-sitzendThe author is a member of the board of AUDI AG, chairman of the regional man­­agement initiative “Initiative Regional­man­­agement Region Ingolstadt e.V.” and mem­­ber of the board of MMR. He was born in Salzgitter in 1958 and studied social sci­­ences at the University of Göttingen. After working for many years for the Group Works Council of Volkswagen AG and com­­pleting his doctorate at TU Braun­schweig, he moved to AUDI AG.