Joachim Nolde: Strong for the market and the economy – The IHK as a modern service provider

We stay strong for the market and the economy: Under this leading idea, the Wiesbaden Chamber of Industry and Commerce (Industrie- und Handels­kam­­mer, or IHK) provides for the interests of around 36,000 companies in the com­­mercial economy in the Wiesbaden, Hoch­­heim and Rheingau-Taunus districts – from retailers to industrial corporations. Whether for economic forecasts, training positions, legal and tax-related questions or expert opinions for local pro­jects – the IHK is the first contact partner in econom­­ics and politics in the region. It is centered around three crucial points: Consulting for corporations, representa­­tion of politi­cal interests, and state func­­tions in the hands of the private economy. As a self-governing economic organization, the IHK presents the interests of its member companies to the public, and its opinions influence legislative and ad­­min­­istrative processes – from local mu­­nicipalities up to the European Union.
The entrepreneurs themselves determine the guidelines for work at the IHK: at the general meeting, the parliamentary di­­vi­­sion and most important committee in the IHK. The elected members in the “eco­­nomic parliament” represent their in­­dus­­tries in their regions and have in­­fluence on economic and political opin­­ions. In addition, they determine the budget for the IHK and the size of contributions, and they ensure that all matters are in step with practice. The state put many tasks into the hands of the economy, of which the most well-known is certainly the or­­ganization of training and education. The members of the “economic parliament,” together with many other volun­tarily engaged bu­­siness partners, en­­sure that these functions require less bu­­reauc­­racy and cost less than those in public administration. The IHK is therefore a reflection of the regional econom­­ic structure, all industries and company sizes are represented in their committees – so the IHK changes along with the economy in its region.
Health care is one topic on the agenda for the companies of the Wiesbaden IHK. The “health care” committee was founded at the general meeting in mid-2008, where players of business and health care sectors can work together across industries.


A local health care study, conducted un­­der contract from the IHK, has clearly shown that the health care industry rep­­resents a future market, particularly for Wiesbaden – and that institutional collaboration is required in order to more strongly combine health care and the economy.
There were discussions concerning the question of how the entrepreneurs should position themselves with regards to the construction of the coal power plant on the Ingelheim Aue in Mainz, for which a preliminary notice is enacted since Jan­­uary 2009. The responsible authority deems the construction licens­able. That also corresponds to the majority vote of the members of the plenary meeting: If one takes as a basis the energy de­­mand, supply security, electricity costs and emissions there is no alternative to the planned coal power plant. Retail is also a topic of debate: In fall 2007, bu­­si­­ness representatives discussed whether Sunday trading hours in the downtown Wiesba­den area should be extended. On the basis of a city council decision, the re­­gional capital permits shops to conduct business on only two Sundays per year, but according to the Hessian shop clos­­ing law, shops are permitted to stay open on four Sundays. The majority of the com­­panies spoke out in favour of ex­­tending business hours and ex­­pan­­ding the ruling to the entire city area. This vote was in regard to the restriction on the historic pentagon, and the histor­­ic downtown are: In 2008, all Wies­­­ba­den shops were al­­lowed to participate for the first time with open business hours on Sunday, on the occasion of the city festival.
The founding of the IHK is based on an initiative of the companies. The trade association campaigned to found a chamber in Wiesbaden. On 29 August 1864, tradespeople with voting rights as­­sembled for the first time at the town hall in Wiesbaden to appoint their representatives. Today, 63 business lead­­ers and executive chairs are involved in the current general meeting of the Wiesba­den IHK. The representatives have been elected to their posts for the next five years by businesspeople from the Wies­­baden, Hochheim and Rhein­gau-Tau­nus districts. In total, 130 repre­­sen­­tatives were candidates for election.


The main office of the Wiesbaden IHK in­­cludes 49 employees, plus an average of eight trainees. With this ratio of em­­ploy­­ees to the number of member com­­­pa­nies, the Wiesbadeners regularly achieve a top rating in IHK internal benchmarks. In the year 2007, the Wiesbaden IHK was in second place out of all 37 parti­c­­ipants in a nationwide “Mys­­tery Man Action” con­­test. The deciding standards were com­­mitment, accessibility, friendliness, po­­lite­­ness and cour­­tesy. The Wies­­baden IHK also attained a top spot with third place in specialized competence, whereby the business sec­­tors “international” and “law” held ranks 1 and 2 na­­tionwide.

Now against the background of the skil­­led worker shortage, it is increasingly impor­­tant for companies to offer their em­­ploy­­ees the possibility of compatibi­lity be­­tween work and family. The IHK also supports its member or­­ganizations in this area and puts itself forward as a good example: In No­­vem­­ber 2004, the Wiesbaden IHK was the first IHK na­­tion­­wide to be distinguished by the pub­­lic interest Hertie foundation as a fam­­ily-friendly organization. And in a study by the Bertelsmann foundation, “business-friendly Metropolis” re­­gar­ding en­­tre­pre­­neurship in the me­­dium-sized economy, the Wiesbadeners took first place out of all IHKs in individ­ual evaluation.

Wiesbaden is a location with exiting fu­­ture possibilities: According to a survey beginning in 2008, under contract by Manager Magazine and the Berenberg Private Bank, Wiesbaden ranks in fourth place out of the 30 largest cities in Ger­­many – directly behind Frankfurt, Mu­­nich and Stuttgart and before Dresden, Cologne and Hamburg. Rewarding, if we at the Wiesbaden IHK can contribute our share to this good position and continue the trend.


Joachim-Nolde-P-4The author has been executive director of the Wiesbaden Chamber of Industry and Commerce (IHK) since 2003. Previously he was Deputy Director and superintend­­ent in the fields of law, commerce and tourism. A lawyer, he is also involved in cross-regional IHK projects, such as in the Commission for Judicial Chamber Policy, and is active on a voluntary ba­­sis in numerous committees in Wies­ba­den and across the region.