We stay strong for the market and the economy: Under this leading idea, the Wiesbaden Chamber of Industry and Commerce (Industrie- und Handelskammer, or IHK) provides for the interests of around 36,000 companies in the commercial economy in the Wiesbaden, Hochheim and Rheingau-Taunus districts – from retailers to industrial corporations. Whether for economic forecasts, training positions, legal and tax-related questions or expert opinions for local projects – the IHK is the first contact partner in economics and politics in the region. It is centered around three crucial points: Consulting for corporations, representation of political interests, and state functions in the hands of the private economy. As a self-governing economic organization, the IHK presents the interests of its member companies to the public, and its opinions influence legislative and administrative processes – from local municipalities up to the European Union.
The entrepreneurs themselves determine the guidelines for work at the IHK: at the general meeting, the parliamentary division and most important committee in the IHK. The elected members in the “economic parliament” represent their industries in their regions and have influence on economic and political opinions. In addition, they determine the budget for the IHK and the size of contributions, and they ensure that all matters are in step with practice. The state put many tasks into the hands of the economy, of which the most well-known is certainly the organization of training and education. The members of the “economic parliament,” together with many other voluntarily engaged business partners, ensure that these functions require less bureaucracy and cost less than those in public administration. The IHK is therefore a reflection of the regional economic structure, all industries and company sizes are represented in their committees – so the IHK changes along with the economy in its region.
Health care is one topic on the agenda for the companies of the Wiesbaden IHK. The “health care” committee was founded at the general meeting in mid-2008, where players of business and health care sectors can work together across industries.
A local health care study, conducted under contract from the IHK, has clearly shown that the health care industry represents a future market, particularly for Wiesbaden – and that institutional collaboration is required in order to more strongly combine health care and the economy.
There were discussions concerning the question of how the entrepreneurs should position themselves with regards to the construction of the coal power plant on the Ingelheim Aue in Mainz, for which a preliminary notice is enacted since January 2009. The responsible authority deems the construction licensable. That also corresponds to the majority vote of the members of the plenary meeting: If one takes as a basis the energy demand, supply security, electricity costs and emissions there is no alternative to the planned coal power plant. Retail is also a topic of debate: In fall 2007, business representatives discussed whether Sunday trading hours in the downtown Wiesbaden area should be extended. On the basis of a city council decision, the regional capital permits shops to conduct business on only two Sundays per year, but according to the Hessian shop closing law, shops are permitted to stay open on four Sundays. The majority of the companies spoke out in favour of extending business hours and expanding the ruling to the entire city area. This vote was in regard to the restriction on the historic pentagon, and the historic downtown are: In 2008, all Wiesbaden shops were allowed to participate for the first time with open business hours on Sunday, on the occasion of the city festival.
The founding of the IHK is based on an initiative of the companies. The trade association campaigned to found a chamber in Wiesbaden. On 29 August 1864, tradespeople with voting rights assembled for the first time at the town hall in Wiesbaden to appoint their representatives. Today, 63 business leaders and executive chairs are involved in the current general meeting of the Wiesbaden IHK. The representatives have been elected to their posts for the next five years by businesspeople from the Wiesbaden, Hochheim and Rheingau-Taunus districts. In total, 130 representatives were candidates for election.
The main office of the Wiesbaden IHK includes 49 employees, plus an average of eight trainees. With this ratio of employees to the number of member companies, the Wiesbadeners regularly achieve a top rating in IHK internal benchmarks. In the year 2007, the Wiesbaden IHK was in second place out of all 37 participants in a nationwide “Mystery Man Action” contest. The deciding standards were commitment, accessibility, friendliness, politeness and courtesy. The Wiesbaden IHK also attained a top spot with third place in specialized competence, whereby the business sectors “international” and “law” held ranks 1 and 2 nationwide.
Now against the background of the skilled worker shortage, it is increasingly important for companies to offer their employees the possibility of compatibility between work and family. The IHK also supports its member organizations in this area and puts itself forward as a good example: In November 2004, the Wiesbaden IHK was the first IHK nationwide to be distinguished by the public interest Hertie foundation as a family-friendly organization. And in a study by the Bertelsmann foundation, “business-friendly Metropolis” regarding entrepreneurship in the medium-sized economy, the Wiesbadeners took first place out of all IHKs in individual evaluation.
Wiesbaden is a location with exiting future possibilities: According to a survey beginning in 2008, under contract by Manager Magazine and the Berenberg Private Bank, Wiesbaden ranks in fourth place out of the 30 largest cities in Germany – directly behind Frankfurt, Munich and Stuttgart and before Dresden, Cologne and Hamburg. Rewarding, if we at the Wiesbaden IHK can contribute our share to this good position and continue the trend.
The author has been executive director of the Wiesbaden Chamber of Industry and Commerce (IHK) since 2003. Previously he was Deputy Director and superintendent in the fields of law, commerce and tourism. A lawyer, he is also involved in cross-regional IHK projects, such as in the Commission for Judicial Chamber Policy, and is active on a voluntary basis in numerous committees in Wiesbaden and across the region.