Going largely unnoticed, Saarland has developed into one of Germany’s richest regions of growth and innovation. Half a century after the economic integration into the Federal Republic, the smallest of the German territorial states developed into a modern location for industry and services in the heart of Europe.Today, Saarland stands in the forefront of the federal states with respect to the most important economic indicators. In the current decade, it lies in place three of the country ranking behind Bavaria and Saxony with regards to economic growth. The development of work places is better here than anywhere else in Germany. Unemployment is significantly lower than the average country rate. And with regards to professional training, the state can even boast a top-ranking position.
Following a profound transformation, it has a broad economic structure. In the coal and steel industries, which secured the wellbeing of the state for many decades, around 80,000 workplaces were lost in radical crises that took place from 1960. Thanks to continuous revaluation of the location, an attractive research landscape and successful industrial establishments, these losses could largely be counterbalanced through new jobs in the processing industry, the technological sector and in the field of services.
Successful industrial establishment
The basis for successfully overcoming structural difficulties was the success of exemplary establishments. Ever since the economic integration in 1959, a total of more than 200 industrial companies were established, which today employ over 40,000 workers. In many cases, these are branches or subsidiary companies of larger national and international groups. After their start-up, many companies very quickly built up their capacities. Saarland’s economy-friendly environment provided the breeding ground for this. In the state of Saarland many production plants could develop more positively than allied companies located in other regions.
Many were even raised in position to “model production facility” within their group.
An attractive environment for investments and innovations
Fundamental impulses for growth and structural change are provided by investment aids within the context of regional economic development, and this until today. The job market is making a significant contribution to the Saarland as a business location – especially the good availability of highly qualified and experienced workforce.
A deciding point, of course, was also that the disadvantages of the national border situation lost more and more significance with Europe’s increasing economic integration. Through the completion of the Single European Market and the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), Saarland increasingly profits from the advantages of its central location. In addition to this, the increasingly better integration of the state into European road networks enables it to reach the most important European markets quickly and cost-efficiently. One can reach Paris from Saarbrücken, for example, via speed train (ICE/TGV) in less than 110 minutes. Saarbrücken and Zweibrücken airports offer cost-efficient direct fights to Europe’s most important metropolises. Thanks to the good integration, one can also reach one’s destination quickly via car by the motorway network.
Another great trump card for the region are Saarland’s universities with their 20,000 students and also the nearby research institutes. Included here are, for example, the Max Planck Institutes for Computer Science and Software Systems, the Fraunhofer Institutes for Non-Destructive Testing (IZFP) und Biomedical Engineering (IBMT), the Leibniz Institute for New Materials or also the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI). By now, around 200 technology-oriented companies stem from universities and institutes.
Modern technologies around the subject car …
The face of industry has considerably changed over the past few decades through the process of structural transformation. Whereby it is more than ever true: industry is high-tech.
Today above all, Saarland’s infrastructure of industry is characterised by the vehicle construction and component supplying industries. Thanks to the reasonable product combination, this sector has remained the most important job motor on the Saar up to present times. Beside the Ford works, which were established in Saarlouis towards the end of the 60s, renowned suppliers, such as Bosch, Nemak Dillingen, Eberspächer, Decoma, ZF-Getriebe or Johnson Controls, contribute towards Saarland’s automobile industry.
These finish high-quality components for vehicles of all types in modern production plants – diesel injection pumps, aluminium engine blocks, mufflers, exhaust emission purification installations, profile door frames, bumpers and automatic transmissions. Also included, are production plants of leading tyre producers (like Michelin) and medium-sized suppliers within the automobile industry. All in all, today, every third industrial work place in Saarland is directly or indirectly dependent upon the automobile. It is therefore with some justification that one speaks of “Saarland car land”.
… and in other industries
Holding 11,700 workplaces, the machine construction industry is the second largest industrial employer on the Saar, with the profile in this sector having been greatly transformed over the past few decades – from former coal and steel supplier to world-wide supplier of innovative production technology. The span of products focuses on the areas of special engineering, test stands, dynamometers, measuring and control engineering as well as CIM components. Saarland’s steel industry has experienced a true renaissance.
Since the turn of the millennium, it again counts as one of the strongest growing sectors in the state, thanks to a consistent focus on high-quality steel and innovative process technology. Significant branches of industry are also the foundries, steel and plant construction, steel forming, electrical engineering, energy and environmental technology and medical technology.
Further priorities in the Saar industry are the food economy and the consumer goods industry, including Europe’s largest ceramics producer, Villeroy & Boch.
Service providers on their way up
Dramatic expansion in Saarland can be seen in the service providing sector, above all within the area of company-oriented services. The information technology and the consulting sector posted also dynamic growth, which presently has around 6,000 employees. Considerable growth rates can also be shown by the environmental and medical service providers and the insurance sector, which gained particular impetus through the market successes of direct insurers CosmosDirekt and Union Krankenversicherung AG (UKV).
Despite all of these successes, a lot still remains to be done, for as we well know, nothing is as consistent as (structural) transformation.
The author is the main business executive of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce of the Saarland (IHK). Born in Münster/Westphalia, in 1950, he studied economics in Saarbrücken and, among other things, later worked as a scientific expert at Saarland’s state chancellery. The year 1979 brought his entry into the IHK as an expert for fundamental questions, land planning and industry and in 2000 he was appointed main business executive.