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Martin Wilke

Frankfurt (Oder) proves location is key, positioned as it is on the German-Polish border not far from Berlin. This means investors can benefit from good logistical access to eastern and western markets as well as a multilingual workforce, as lord mayor Dr Martin Wilke tells Natasha Turak.

Q: As a small city of 60,000 people, Frankfurt (Oder) might be unfamiliar to investors outside of Germany. What does it have to offer businesses?

A: We have some interesting aspects for investors, primarily our logistics and geographic location. We are not far from Berlin – just one hour away – and we have access to the infrastructure of the city, with the new Berlin airport currently under construction. On the other side we are close to Poland.

We’re also very international. We are home to the European University of Viadrina, which has students from more than 80 countries. We also have companies from different countries using this location to access two markets: the eastern European market on one side – with Poland, which is a growing market with about 38 million inhabitants – and Germany on the other side with a population of more than 80 million.

With these two countries you have access to eastern and western Europe, which is also supported by a strong logistics infrastructure as the main road between east and west and the railway from Moscow to Paris go through here.

We have also developed a strong industrial and R&D base, particularly in the fields of microelectronics, solar power and semiconductors, thanks to our IHP [Innovations for High Performance Microelectronics] Institute, which helps attract companies or support start-ups. And we’re also in a position where we have a lot of subsidies financed by the state or federal government, which is very interesting, especially for very large investments.

Q: You market yourself under the ‘Twin Cities’ concept [which links Frankfurt (Oder) with its Polish neighbour Słubice]. What makes your location on the border with Poland attractive for FDI? 

A: In this location close to the Oder river you can see Poland on one side and Frankfurt (Oder) [in Germany] on the other, so we have crossborder co-operation and we can offer a bilingual workforce for logistics, distribution activity and more.

We have access to two labour markets. If a company comes here, we can offer administrative support from both the German and Polish sides to give permissions or allowances.

It is also great for German-Polish families and companies, as they can grow within both environments. This is also beneficial for countries from all over Europe because you have the university, which is very international, and workers here often speak three or more languages.

Q: What types of industries would you like to attract in particular?

A: Logistics and technology-based industry, especially in the fields of solar and microelectronics – we have a long tradition in microelectronics and a lot of experienced people. The IHP Institute of about 350 engineers and technicians is able to support such settlements of companies or start-ups.

But companies also require a robust infrastructure, in case they need large volumes of electricity and water. We can offer that, and the costs are relatively moderate. To do that in Cologne or Hamburg would be much more expensive.

Q: What are your biggest challenges in attracting FDI to Frankfurt (Oder)?

A: Sometimes it can be a problem hiring the right people. As in every region, there is a limit to the availability of people with the right, specific qualifications. But we have access to the neighbouring labour market of Berlin, so a lot of people come from there, and we try to reduce the problem by attracting people from the surrounding areas.

What we need for the future is a better economic platform. We need more income and more taxes, and for that we offer companies a lot of benefits. It’s a win-win situation. We offer the environment and the right circumstances, and on the other side, we are hoping for more taxes and for more jobs.

This article is sourced from fDi Magazine
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