Local politics from one source, synergy effects created by bundling competencies and tasks as well as an increased awareness of the economic region were the main stimuli for the formation of the Hannover Region in 2001.
The Hannover Region is a special form of local administration and is the legal successor of the district of Hannover and the Greater Hannover local government association. The foundation of the Region created an economic and living environment with economic potential equal to that of a small federal state. Nearly 1.1 million people live in the Hannover Region in an area covering nearly 2,300 square kilometres, which is roughly equal to the size of the Saarland and represents nearly 15 per cent of the entire population of Niedersachsen. Die Hannover Region is, among other things, responsible for public transport and waste disposal, as well as for local welfare services, vocational schools and municipal hospitals. Further roles include those in environmental protection, regional planning and recreation, as well as promoting business and employment.
By combining the economic power of 21 municipalities, the Hannover Region has become the centre of growth and innovation in Niedersachsen. With nearly 450,000 workers paying social security contributions, the Hannover Region provides about 18 per cent of the jobs in Niedersachsen and accounts for nearly 20 per cent of the state’s gross domestic product. The Hannover Region model is considered exemplary when it comes to combining municipal competencies and potential and drawing synergy effects from this.
There are many examples of these effects: the hospitals in the city and district were merged to form Klinikum Region Hannover GmbH. In 13 locations, the clinic offers a healthcare system for people close to where they live. At the same time, employees, management and the Hannover Region worked together to successfully restructure the clinic so that, in contrast to the former city and district hospitals, it now breaks even. By laying the foundation stone for a new building costing 180 million euros, the company has today set the stage for tomorrow’s healthcare.
With 16 vocational schools, the Region is also the largest provider of vocational training in Niedersachsen. Here, nearly 40,000 people receive vocational training each year. Almost 300 training courses are on offer. At the same time, the educational landscape has been consistently restructured. Vocational schools with similar course offers have become competence centres, specialising in individual sectors of the economy. Because of this, the Hannover Region has access to educational institutions with tailored educational profiles and technical equipment which can meet the demands of the business community.
One of the key stimuli behind the creation of the Region was to anchor the economic and living environment in the perception of companies and visitors, while also increasing attention on the Region across the country. This can only be successful with centralised, coordinated structures and measures. The equal representation of the state capital and the Hannover Region in the hannoverimpuls GmbH ensures that the activities and campaigns are coordinated, domestic marketing is tied to image marketing and a concentrated profile-building process for the entire economic area can be initiated and executed. The effect: the location is increasingly present in the national trade press, a significant increase in the number of location enquiries by external companies has been recorded and the number of tourism-related overnight stays is steadily increasing.
The significance of the Hannover Region business location for Niedersachsen is clear: as an administrative centre, all major state authorities and ministries are anchored in the region, and with the seat of the major banks and insurance companies in Hannover, it is equally the financial and insurance centre of Niedersachsen. In addition, the Hannover Region is known around the world as an internationally significant location for exhibitions and trade fairs.
As a business location, Hannover also enjoys an outstanding position in the logistics sector. A globalised flow of goods, the increasing importance of Eastern Europe and the expansion of the deep-water harbour JadeWeserPort have turned the Hannover Region into a logistics hub thanks to its ideal
connections to all modes of transport: road, water, rail and air, thus making it an ideal location for transport companies and logistics-related sectors. The growing demand from companies and project developers promises that the Region will enjoy sustained importance for Niedersachsen – the location is “on the map”. Many logistics companies with European or global distribution functions are now based in Hannover. Since 2003, over 800 million euros in new investments have been made in this sector alone in the Hannover Region and 5,000 new jobs have been created.
Along with its importance to the logistics sector, the location in Niedersachsen is also the focal point and centre of attraction for sectors high in growth and innovation. As early as 2001, the Region identified high-growth, future-oriented sectors. Additional economic promotion and development focuses have been added to these over the last ten years. Since then, the automotive, energy, health, information and communications technology and creative sectors, as well as production technology, have been the focus of an economic promotion measure which is embedded in a functioning network of local and regional economic promotion measures, clearly separating itself from the standard intraregional location competition. A business-friendly location needs companies to have direct access to support in all matters of daily business. This support includes short communications and administrative lines, classic business services such as financing and advice on obtaining subsidies as well as specific practical areas of expertise such as loan mediation, restructuring advice for companies facing economic difficulties or innovations and technological advice. The economic promotion measures offered by the 21 municipalities in the Hannover Region provide an expert point of contact for all companies in the region. For this purpose, the economic promotion services on a regional level have specific expertise, services and promotional instruments available, complete their on-site performance capabilities and promote sector focuses in the business region with special support for foundation and growth.
Another excellent example of this is cooperation in the area of restructuring consultancy. This gives a company threatened by liquidity problems the opportunity to discuss the first steps for solving the problem with the contact person where the company is – after all, this person is most familiar with the local conditions. However, if broader business analyses or comprehensive restructuring advice is required and possible, the regional economic promotion service will also be consulted. In a comprehensive process including all companies, banks, possible creditors and tax advisers involved, a pragmatic solution is worked out with the goal of keeping the company in business. This procedure is especially useful for small and medium-sized companies, which due to the lack of economic attractiveness in such a case would not find support in the market and which would most likely have to file for bankruptcy. A success rate of 70 per cent of companies being kept in the market emphasises the potential this network offers.
Time and again, future-oriented and innovative paths are taken in the Hannover Region in order to confront current developments and problems successfully – because the only answer to global competition lies in strong regionalisation.
However, the Hannover Region is more than just a strong business location. It also offers a high quality of life, with a large number of recreational and cultural attractions. An excellent opera house, a wide range of theatres and museums such as the Sprengel Museum or the Wilhelm-Busch-Gesellschaft are just a few examples, and the zoo is also not to be forgotten. An excellent public transport network ensures that these services and attractions are easily accessible and it’s also possible to take the step from urban spaces to the countryside – and vice versa – at any time.
The author studied social sciences and law at the university of Hannover. Among other things, he worked at the Ministry of Justice of Niedersachsen and in the State Chancellory. From 1996 to 2006, he was mayor of the town of Laatzen, before assuming the position as president of the Hannover Region in November 2006.