Klaus Wurpts M.A.: Central Germany, competing for new location advantages

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.

Klaus_WurptsAs 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.