Rhineland-Palatinate offers both a high quality of life and economic power. An attractive mix of industry, small and medium-sized businesses, crafts, trades and services in the heart of a magnificent cultural and natural landscape between the Rhine, Moselle and Nahe contribute significantly to this. The economy here is continuing to grow consistently; we have the third lowest unemployment figures in Germany and are number four in the top ten list of the most important high-tech regions in Europe. Rhineland-Palatinate is one of Germany’s leading business locations. It lies in a very favourable position, in the dynamic south-west of the country. Its neighbours are France, Belgium and Luxembourg. The Rhine-Main and Rhine-Neckar metropolitan regions are well-connected, and the outstanding infrastructure and optimum contacts mean that the rest of the world is just as close.
Rhineland-Palatinate represents a dynamic economy. With a successful mix of large, small and medium-sized companies in all economic sectors and above-average economic power, the region is characterised by its ideal climate for innovation and high employment figures. The gross domestic product rose by 4.8 per cent in 2010, adjusted for prices, thus achieving the second highest growth of any German state. Rhineland-Palatinate’s industry is particularly strong when it comes to exports: with a quota of 52.1 per cent in 2010, it is far above the German average (46.1 per cent). Key contributors to this include large companies in the vehicle manufacturing and mechanical engineering sectors, as well as the pharmaceuticals industry based in Rhineland-Palatinate. However, these industrial giants do not completely dominate Rhineland-Palatinate’s economy: it is above all small and medium-sized companies who form the backbone of dynamic growth, innovation and quality of life in our state. Around 99 per cent of firms are small or medium- sized companies. The vast majority have less than 50 staff. It is these small and medium-sized companies in particular who draw their success from an efficient connection between tradition and innovative power.
New technologies and services are also needed for a new energy policy, which is relying on renewable energies rather than nuclear power. Companies in Rhineland-Palatinate have recognised this and are making use of the opportunities presenting themselves for new products and processes – not least on the international markets. The range of companies lining up both nationally and internationally in the new business sectors, especially in the service sector, is as broad as it is innovative. Waste and recycling management, environmental remediation, emission protection, energy generation and management, environmental protection integrated into production and water/sewage treatment are all part of the core business. The medium- sized companies in our region are also benefiting from huge opportunities for growth. New jobs are being created, offering opportunities for the future.
Rhineland-Palatinate is planning to cover all its proportion of gross electricity consumption financially from renewable energies by 2030, becoming an electricity exporter. A secure energy supply and stable prices are an important goal, especially for the companies themselves. Local energy supply is a top priority. With wind power and solar energy plants, it is best to generate the electricity where it is needed. Energy generation in our state means value creation, which directly benefits the districts, the companies and the people.
I am convinced that our economy will benefit extensively from the move towards efficiency of resources. Worldwide business sectors are already open and new ones are being unlocked. Products from Rhineland-Palatinate’s strong chemical industry are already leading the way, such as in the development of innovative and efficient materials. In vehicle construction, alternative drive technologies are in international demand. And mechanical engineering has always been successful.
Together with the companies, the staff and the scientific community, we are creating a “Master Plan for Industrial Development”. Resource-efficient and future-orientated economic activity, innovative and environmentally friendly products and production processes “made in Rhineland-Palatinate” – we have a lot to offer the world markets. But we can only meet the challenges of the future by ensuring that we have sufficient specialist staff. The focus here is on qualified workers.
The state government supports human resources policies orientated to different phases of life, which many companies are already implementing successfully. Especially at a time when specialist staff are hard to come by, this combines high ethical standards with an important competitive factor. Rhineland-Palatinate is continuing to place great emphasis on professional education. Over 20 universities and research institutions are training the next generation of highly qualified workers, and no tuition fees are charged for the first degree. Training for engineers and the dual apprenticeship system with well-trained specialist workers and masters enjoys a worldwide reputation. Practical training in companies and the close link to the companies’ requirements ensure that the economy gains the highly qualified staff it needs and, thanks to the people’s enormous willingness to work, secures a constantly high level of employment.
Recognising opportunities, meeting challenges head on, promoting innovation – these are the key focuses for us in Rhineland-Palatinate. We therefore pay particular attention to supporting research, development and technology transfer in small and medium-sized companies. We view cluster initiatives and networks as the central instrument for this: here, cooperation leads to innovation. Companies in the commercial vehicles industry, metal and ceramics sector or chemicals and pharmaceuticals industry either belong to one of the strong business associations in business and science or work together side by side with internationally successful companies. This is true for the strong medium-sized company segment in particular.
To meet these challenges, we need to combine forces in the state and for the state. Together with you, we in Rhineland-Palatinate are getting to grips with the future!
Born in 1964, the author completed degree studies in Economics and Environmental Management at the University of Hannover and FernUniversität Hagen. She has been actively involved in the Bündnis 90/Die Grünen since 1995. She worked as a management consultant from 2001 to 2007. Since 2011, Eveline Lemke has been the Minister of Economic Affairs, Climate Protection, Energy and Regional Planning and Deputy Minister President.