Markus Frank: The cosmopolitan city of Frankfurt and the Frankfurt Rhine-Main region

Hardly anybody will question Frankfurt’s identity as an international centre. At first glance it is visible in the form of the European Central Bank and the more than 9,500 foreign companies based in Frankfurt today. And it is also audible in the many foreign languages that the visitor and local alike can hear on the Zeil shopping mile or along the bank of the Main. These structures – and hence the foundations of Frankfurt’s international orientation – have developed over the centuries. Trade routes intersected in Frankfurt as early as the Middle Ages and the city rose to become a major business centre. This created the basis for the Frankfurt Rhine-Main region as a region of immigration. Today the region has an above-average population potential, enormous innovative power and export strength, which place and link Frankfurt in an excellent position internationally. The Frankfurt Rhine-Main re­­gion has become an international hub where people of all nationalities work and feel at home. Americans form the largest foreign business community, followed by some 6,800 Chinese, 6,000 Indians and Koreans, Japanese, French and British people. A total of 497 companies from Great Britain alone have become established in the Frankfurt Chamber of Industry and Com­­merce (IHK) region, including 353 in the Frankfurt city precincts, and there are 307 French companies there as well. Even the Russian business community is continuing to grow and now has 285 companies in the Frankfurt IHK region. For example, Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank, opened its largest overseas branch here in Frankfurt am Main.

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Frankfurt’s Museum Bank Festival is one of the biggest European cultural festivals. Apart from exhibitions organised by the museums, cabaret, variété, music and culinary specialities from all over the world are presented on both banks of – and on – the river Main.

But Frankfurt and the surrounding region are not just intended to be an employment and business location, they are also intended to offer an attractive quality of life. So the focus of location policies concentrates on optimizing the infrastructure for employees and their families living here. Thus, Frankfurt alone has 13 international and/or foreign schools, in addition to numerous private German schools whose international outlook and wide-ranging foreign language
curriculum enable migrant children to integrate more quickly and to ensure an internationally oriented education for all children.
The universities and colleges in the region offer international qualifications and foster cooperation with foreign institutions. This is reflected clearly in student numbers. This educational basis prepares highly-qualified employees – sought throughout the entire world – for equally high-quality vocational and professional training and the Frankfurt Rhine-Main region tops this list compared with other regions in Europe. Hardly any other regions offer such ideal access to people, knowledge and markets or are so well-established in terms of know-how and commercial innovation.

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One of the most significant foundations for commercial success in the Frankfurt Rhine-Main region is its central location in the heart of Europe and its setting in an unequalled infrastructure network. Besides one of the world’s largest airports, this includes ideal connections with high-speed road and rail networks, which enable rapid and flexible access to key international markets. Simul­­tane­­ously, Frankfurt’s and its region’s accessibility is a fundamental location advantage. Frankfurt Airport currently offers almost 300 weekly connections to Great Britain. The packed flight time­­table and short travelling time (about 90 minutes) make the trip across the English Channel a “hop, skip and a jump”. And travel routes to France are equally diverse and fast. Over 200 passenger aircraft fly to French cities every week. Paris can be reached by rail from Frankfurt by the ICE and its French equivalent, the TGV, in less than four hours. With over 600 flights to Eastern Europe and about 400 to North America, Frankfurt acts as a central global business hub. Thus, it is not surprising that Frankfurt is not only a central location for the finance and insurance industries today, but that it also has a concentration of companies of fundamental national and simultaneously Euro­­pean importance in the form of the IT and telecommunications sectors, the creative sector and the logistics and transport sectors.

Frankfurt naturally gains international importance with its function as the location of the European Central Bank (ECB) and hence as the capital city of the euro. This is where the currency-related decisions for “Euroland” and hence some 330 million people are made. 269 banks – over half of them foreign – and the ten largest German banks are represented in Frankfurt. Players in the insurance industry also appreciate conditions in Frankfurt. Market access and proximity to the international “financial community” were the deciding factors that inspired more than 100 companies to open their headquarters or branches in Frankfurt. The establishment of the EU insurance industry and company pensions supervisory authority CEIOPS (Committee of European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Supervisors) gives this insurance centre additional incentive for development.

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The Deutsche Börse AG (German Stock Exchange) is the fourth-largest worldwide after New York, London and Tokyo and the futures exchange EUREX, the world’s biggest “Futures and Options Exchange”, has even overtaken the Chicago Board of Trade. The takeover of the US options exchange International Securities Exchange Holdings (ISE) gave rise to the largest transatlantic marketplace for financial derivatives. Some 90 per cent of all German securities and commodities transactions are carried out in Frankfurt. Deutsche Börse AG, the body responsible for the securities and commodities exchanges, is one of the most modern electronic exchanges in the world and EUREX is the world’s largest commodities market for financial derivatives and simultaneously Europe’s largest clearing house.

Frankfurt’s pre-eminent position as a financial centre has also led to a considerable expansion in its IT infrastructure and a high concentration of service providers.
Today branches of national and international data networks and all internationally leading telephone companies intersect in Frankfurt and offer a perfect, future-oriented infrastructure. Frankfurt is home to 90 telecommunications providers, with the biggest collection of such companies in Hessen. It is also Europe’s second-largest computer centre location, with over 85 per cent of German and more than 35 per cent of European internet traffic passing through here.

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Germany’s advertising capital, the city of books, a much sought-after film location, pre- and post-production centre, native city of techno, home of the games industry and site of the ADC summit – Frankfurt is full of superlatives in the entire media and creative sector. However, what is crucial is that, as a media location, Frankfurt’s commercial structure covers the entire added value chain in the media industry. This infrastructure and diversity of sectors with an international outlook is rounded off by the 60 foreign business organizations and the 100 or so consulates in Frankfurt. The international and multicultural outlook in the Frankfurt Rhine-Main region ranges from business through diplomacy and culture to everyday life and is an important location factor. In the competition in the global and the German markets this will play an increasing role.

Markus-Frank-copyright-WeisThe author, who was born in 1969, completed an apprenticeship as a journeyman motor mechanic before completing a master’s qualification in that trade. He formed a car dealership in 1992 at various locations in Frankfurt and Kronberg/Taunus. Among other activities, he is branch chairman and chairman of the local CDU party and he has been active as a city councillor with responsibility for commerce and sport in the city of Frankfurt am Main since 2009.