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).
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.
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.
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.
The 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.