Q: What are the opportunities that are available for investors in Bochum?
A: An investor told me recently that Bochum is ‘the Berlin of the future’. This is [flattering], but there’s truth to it because Bochum city and its region is awakening, economically. It is a city that is not afraid of the structural change that is allowing us to take things to a new level. We’re a city with 370,000 inhabitants, 60,000 of whom are students from eight universities, so that provides enormous potential to be used to develop the city’s tech, economic and urban character; there’s a changing cultural atmosphere [that runs] in line with the students’ needs.
Q: Can you elaborate on the comparison with Berlin?
A: Regarding the economy, it is interesting because we’re able to make skilled labour available thanks to the universities. We recently announced that [multinational engineering and electronics company] Robert Bosch [intends to establish itself] in Bochum with up to 2000 employees. People are happy to live in the city because it is affordable and the cultural offering is very good. Bochum is a place where many software development companies and start-ups are looking to establish themselves, because after work they can live in the area; they don’t want to be in some commercial area in the outskirts of a location, but in the city centre. So it’s a cool city. We’ve got economic strength and a good quality of life.
Q: How are you making Bochum more attractive for investment?
A: We have many cultural offerings in our city, and we are bringing in more, such as a new music forum. On the other hand, we have to cope with structural change. Many companies are coming because they think the structural changes are an opportunity. Fifty years ago, 300,000 active miners were working in Bochum. Now we have thousands of students and no miners. Today, Bochum focuses on IT security and healthcare. Co-operation between the university and economic community is there. The living conditions and leisure opportunities are there. We have many green spaces: 40% of city is green, which is impressive for an industrial city. Our region is also ethnically diverse.
Bochum is an enabler and is open for new ideas in terms of administration and society. We are tackling carbon emissions quickly. By the end of 2020, 95% of Bochum households will have giga speeds for internet surfing. To be ‘the Berlin of the future’ is a motivation for us, and it can be a reality. People want to be part of this change.
Q: What are the business challenges facing Bochum?
A: There has been some long-term unemployment because it is difficult to adjust people to the modern workplace. Another challenge is to transform old industrial areas into areas available for value creation, and in order to be competitive and environmentally friendly we need to invest lots of money.