The international rivalry for investments, cluster development and employees in Germany, and also in Thuringia, is primarily still thought of in separate cate-gories of so-called “hard” and “soft” location factors, by both organizations as well as business promoters. In highly developed knowledge economies the tangible offerings like infrastructure or cultural choices are however increasingly aligned. Centres like Erfurt, Jena, Ilmenau and Weimar are therefore reliant on a strategic positioning of their location potential in the form of combining both factors – like they have also been developed by the ‘Industrial Initiative for Central Germany’ for the whole of Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia.
Such a strategic positioning must take into account three significant developments of increasingly professional location competition over the last few years. The first is the increasing deficit of highly qualified personnel, especially in the engineering sector. Surveys in several OECD countries show that young people with degrees, when choosing a job, no longer preferentially orientate themselves according to salaries or the international employer’s brand image. For a couple of years now, the selection criteria have concerned, in the first place, the attractiveness and expected quality of life of a region, or more specifically, a large city. Hereunder, above all, a cosmopolitan, liberal social climate, a wide cultural selection with a distinctive “scene” image, as well as a family-friendly, nature-oriented and attractive habitation environment is to be understood. In the Central German main centres there is thereby a favourable trend that no longer prefers large metropolises like London or Paris, but rather cities with only a few hundred thousand inhabitants.
The second development to be considered with the strategic positioning of a business location exists in the increasingly necessary focusing on specific, non-transferable local or regional competitive advantages. Therewith, in the current knowledge economy, geographical or even topographical advantages are not what is meant, but rather the special (traditional) skills and experiences of the people – as is the case in the optic industry in Jena or the automotive engineering sector in Eisenach. These specific regional skills should ideally be promoted through educational and research institutions, so that a specialized cluster creation is established at enterprise level. Herewith the identification of actually available clusters, in the sense of specialized agglomeration, is crucial for the strategic positioning of the region. Particularly characteristic thereof is an above-average concentration ratio for the number of employees, the number of businesses and the regional export participation. Such clusters do not align themselves to administrative boundaries and are particularly to be found overall and furthermore, in the Central German federal states. Exceptions here are the optics (Jena) and microelectronics (Dresden) industries.
The third development to be observed ultimately, exists in the strategic positioning of a region itself, that is the internal and external marketing of the location. Both have to be congruent. The communicated advantages have to correspond to the actual strengths – and simultaneously represent the point of reference for location development. A settlement strategy should therewith not only satisfy the expectations of the enterprises as regards infrastructure, but should rather also encompass the promotion of the specific cultural offerings right up to accommodation and housing arrangements. Herewith the “soft” location factors become “hard” factors and should correspond to the expectations of highly qualified personnel as regards their living and working environment. In plain language it means that someone who, for instance, advertises an automotive location, should be able to provide the appropriate top-class engineers with the living environment they require and also develop this further. For an IT location, in the course of a recruitment and investment campaign, it would make little sense to advertise a great opera (and to offer this), when IT experts sometimes rather prefer going to the cinema.
Da sich in den drei Bundesländern Mitteldeutschlands schon jetzt ein gravierender Mangel an hoch qualifizierten Fachkräften abzeichnet, ist es dringend geboten, sich unter Berücksichtigung der regionalen Cluster über die Voraussetzungen des Wirtschaftsstandortes im Hinblick auf das Lebens- und Arbeitsumfeld von Fachkräften Gedanken zu machen. – Eine gemeinsame Herausforderung für Wirtschaft, Wissenschaft und Politik.
As an important deficit in highly qualified employees in the three federal states of Central Germany has already emerged, it is urgently necessary – in consideration of the regional clusters – to think about the business location conditions in terms of the living and working environment of qualified employees. – A common challenge for economics, science and politics.