As president of Düsseldorf’s Chamber of Commerce, Andreas Schmitz has an eye for what makes the city an enticing place for businesses looking to build and expand. The city is the capital of Germany’s biggest state, North Rhine-Westphalia, so it has long been a preferred place for companies to locate their headquarters, according to Mr Schmitz.
“Düsseldorf was once the traditional centre of the German coal and steel industry. Today, it is the home of many more businesses, national and international,” he adds, “Among our 80,000 members we have an especially strong presence of industrial companies as well as the service sector, in particular telecoms, advertising, law and management consulting. Düsseldorf is also a major hub for the wholesale and retail business.”
Heart of Germany
Mr Schmitz believes that what makes Düsseldorf a good place in which to base a business is its position as a gateway to Germany and the rest of Europe. He says: “Düsseldorf is where the market is. More than 4000 international investors choose Düsseldorf because they can operate from the heart of the biggest metropolitan area in Germany with 12 million consumers. There’s good accessibility thanks to our airport, railway and road networks, and the city offers an international and business-friendly environment. Almost every major country has a reasonable business community in Düsseldorf, with more than 400 from the UK alone.”
It is also attractive to investors, particularly from outside Europe. Mr Schmitz says: “The biggest increase in FDI in recent years has come from Asian investors. Düsseldorf is not only the biggest and most traditional centre for Japanese companies on the continent, but it has also, over the past few years, become the top location for Chinese investment in Germany. So the Chamber of Commerce has got together with the city administration and Messe Düsseldorf to set up the China Competence Centre as a one-stop shop for Chinese investors.”
Mr Schmitz prides himself on the chamber’s international outlook. “Last year, we had 30,000 practical and strategic enquiries about international markets and regulations governing foreign trade,” he says. “We issued 50,000 trade documents and organised more than 100 international business events which attracted almost 5000 participants.
“Of course, we don’t handle this all by ourselves. We are part of the global network of German chambers of commerce in 90 countries, which includes the German-British Chamber in London. In co-operation with our colleagues in these bilateral chambers of commerce, we operate an Indian, Israeli, Japanese and South Korean desk. We have also set up the Russia Competence Centre, again with Düsseldorf’s city administration and Messe Düsseldorf.”
He adds: “We have very good relations with many other organisations, both abroad and here, as we are home to the British Consulate and its Department for International Trade and many other consulates general. We are co-operating extensively with the Japanese Chamber of Commerce, which has its office in our building, the Japan External Trade Organization and the Chinese Enterprises Association.
“As all these institutions receive delegations and get many requests from companies, we are often asked to meet with these business people, something which can result in them setting up here.”