Michael Ebling – The city of science in the RhineMain metropolitan region

During the past few months, together with my mayoral colleagues in Wies­­baden and Frankfurt, I have made clear our joint intention to reform regional politics in the Rhine-Main area. We all have the same concerns when it comes to the financial situation facing municipalities and the challenges this creates in keeping social networks and cultural services intact. However, beyond the healthy competition between us, we can all benefit from the attractiveness of this living environment and the strengths of the Rhine-Main business location to­­gether. Even in relation to concerns about increasing aircraft noise, the lack of affordable housing, the expansion of local public transport and cultural services, there is huge interest in greater togetherness and collaboration than was the case in past decades. We face the same problems as the other attractive cities in the metropolitan region: high prices per square metre and the associated high demand for affordable, family-friendly housing with a balanced social structure for people with small to medium incomes, single parents, students and the elderly. “Affordable housing” is therefore a red-hot key topic for both cities, which is why regional cooperation between municipalities needs to take on a new focus. If you want to enjoy a common identity and market it success­­fully internationally, you have to create clear structures. I also believe that FrankfurtRheinMain GmbH is the right platform to further encourage regional thinking. This is why I will be recommending to the city committees as soon as possible that Mainz join the platform. Combining our strengths in this way will further invigorate regional thinking and thus move us forward, not only economically.

Mainz is a city that creates progress: as a Roman capital, as ‘the golden city of Mainz’ and head of the German Asso­­ciation of Towns and Municipalities, as an important religious centre, as the site of Gutenberg’s work or as the birth­­place of the first republic on German soil. Not least thanks to its lively knowledge culture, our city has been able to reinvent itself time and again over the centuries and in doing so has contributed to the history of European culture and science. In the last few years, science ‘made in Mainz’ has become increasingly important even on an international scale. Our city has a high density of academic institutions, including one of the largest German universities – the Johannes Gutenberg University –, universities of applied sciences, Max Planck Institutes, the University Medical Center and com­­panies with high levels of expertise in research and development. The only other place in Germany with a comparable density of internationally renowned research institutions is the Munich re­­gion. I predict that, in just a few years, every important research institution will have a base in Mainz. This area of exper­­tise is one that we can certainly make the most of and, alongside small and medium-sized companies, industry, pro­­duction, the service industry and the media, is an engine for development that cannot be underestimated. The re­­search institutions and their about 4,000 scientists are connected in the Mainz Research Alliance. They form the foundation of Mainz’s status as a dy­­namic city of science as they work together, exchange information and transfer knowl­­­edge and technology in business and society. The alliance aims to link universities, scientific institutions and com­­panies located in Mainz and its surroundings together closely, in order to promote research and science in Mainz and the entire region. The fact that Mainz was named ‘City of Science 2011’ shows how successful these links have already been. The award represents a massive commitment by the state government, including financially, to promoting science and education in Mainz and getting the city ready for the future. And there is something else that is close to our heart: making sure that everyone has the chance to experience science. To this end, a huge science market is held annually in front of the Mainz State Theatre, regularly fascinating large numbers of people. Furthermore, we are working on implementing a permanent ‘house of science’ in Mainz, which would be a showcase on science particularly for laypeople, too.

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The right planning decisions have been made in Mainz to make the city fit for those looking for housing, for families, for students and for investors. This suc­­cessful mixture is reason enough to take an optimistic view of the future. Mainz will prove itself in competition – and the city of science tag provides a solid basis to make the city stand out from the crowd, since the development is closely related to a high level of stability when it comes to covering the demand for skilled workers in the re­­gion. Another of the exciting visionary projects whose implementation will shape the next few years is the upcoming con­­struction of the Archaeological Centre.

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I want to redefine the issue of city vs surrounding countryside in the years ahead, working towards a significant increase in regional collaboration. Be­­sides ‘preserving’, deliberate ‘renewal’ is also important here. The major cities in the RhineMain metropolitan region in future want to work together to continue following this path with the necessary professionalism. In Mainz, we have decided to take on the future our­­selves in order to retain our ability to make planning, financial and economic decisions for the future independently, despite limited financial leeway. Wherever possible, we are supported in this by organisations and associations, and we know that our region’s economic strength is on our side. However, the economy’s most important role remains to create jobs. Particularly here in Mainz, the greatest responsibility rests on the shoulders of the many small and medium-sized companies – not least because we know that making the leap to setting up on one’s own still involves a high level of personal risk. We will support companies that plan to settle or expand here in the coming years without red tape and will improve the tools available for this. Our city is well-prepared for new companies to settle here. An attractive industrial area, Wirtschaftspark Mainz-Süd, has been developed on Hechts­­heimer Strasse, close to the trade fair ground. As Möbel Martin, the Deublin Company and many more companies have moved to Clus­­ter 1, there is no end to the positive head­­lines about the Wirt­­schaftspark. The decisive factor remains the variety of companies from the indus­­­trial, commercial, trade, retail, media and logistics sectors located in Mainz. That is what we have to preserve, since it is this diverse mixture of industries that stabilises the job market and ensures that Mainz as a business location can largely rise above possible crises in indi­­vidual economic sectors. Besides the media sector, we are also moving in the right direction to establish ourselves as a strong location for IT and the creative industries by 2023.

Kopie_Bild-EblingThe author studied Law in Mainz. In 2002 he was elected full-time councillor of Mainz for Social Affairs, Youth, Health and Living. From 2006 he worked as Secretary of State in the Min­­­istry of Education, Science, Fur­ther Education and Culture of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate. Since 2008 he has been chair­­man of the Mainz Social Demo­cratic Party. He was appointed Mayor of the state capital Mainz on 18th April, 2012.