Düsseldorf is based in the North Rhine-Westphalia region, which is among the top destinations for FDI in Germany. Some 18,000 companies are now based in the region and Düsseldorf is number one city for FDI in Germany. We talk to the Mayor of Düsseldorf, Kerstin Jäckel-Engstfeld, who tells us all about this great economic vibrant city and its plans to attract more international trade.

Can you tell European Business Magazine readers more specific facts about Dusseldorf and its surrounding region – how many international companies have based themselves in Dusseldorf?

Düsseldorf is a buzzing, dynamically growing city – attracting new citizens and new companies. As a top destination for FDI in Europe, Düsseldorf wins on average well above 100 FDI-projects per year. In 2015 for instance, 169 FDI projects were counted according to official statistics by Germany Trade &Invest/NRW.Invest. 43% of all FDI-projects in the federal state of NRW are targeting Düsseldorf – making it the international hotspot in the region.

One of Düsseldorf´s key features is its internationality: almost 5000 international companies operate here and every major nation has a business community in Düsseldorf. Our FDI-attraction activities have really paid off. One example: In 2004, when we started our China Competence Center, which supports Chinese companies in setting up business in Düsseldorf, there had only been 80 Chinese companies. Now, we have reached a figure of 480 Chinese companies in Düsseldorf (900 in NRW), making Düsseldorf the fastest growing destination of FDI-projects from China in Germany.

NRW Region is host to many companies from many different industries. What are the main industries that are thriving in Dusseldorf, would you say?

Düsseldorf has a balanced, diverse and robust economy, based on a large number of strongly growing industries such as management consultancies, telecommunications/mobile, advertising, international trade and – last but not least – manufacturing.

One sector with high growth potential is of course the digital economy. This is an area that is developing very fast in Düsseldorf as here is the place where providers of services, suppliers, clients and users meet and can create new business models. Our digital ecosystem is quite unique – even at European level. Vodafone for instance operates the biggest testing facility for telecoms in Düsseldorf. Over the last few months, a new Narrowband IoT lab, and the infrastructure to test autonomous and connected driving as well as smart cities were added to the Vodafone innovation campus.

Are there any specific government schemes or tax incentives for international companies when they choose to relocate to Dusseldorf? When Companies choose to relocate to Dusseldorf does the city council provide assistance to 

those companies?

 

The main offer of the city is the combination of a very favourable location with an excellent and efficient infrastructure at a very attractive cost level in the field of commercial tax, real estate/rent and salaries. Tax incentives do not play a role in our location marketing strategy. This would not be legal as Düsseldorf is not among the target regions for EU support.

 

However, one factor that we as a city can really focus on is the “ease of doing business”. We are keen to offer the best service and support to companies. The whole city administration is business minded and service orientated. Hence our claim: “Düsseldorf – where business works!”

 

And the city´s Office of Economic Development acts as a one-stop agency supporting companies with tailored services: i.e. assisting investors with administrative procedures and permits, relocation of expats and finding office space.

 

We recently opened our Expat Service Desk as a platform for all expat-related activities International talents are very welcome in Düsseldorf!

 

Does the city itself have many schemes for promoting entrepreneurship and innovation?

 

Our target is to keep up this healthy mix of industrial manufacturing and service industries while at the same time fostering innovation, digitalisation and internationalisation. We are building on our strong ICT sector and industrial backbone to develop an ecosystem where tech firms of all shapes and sizes find ideal opportunities to do business. In 2014, the city established an initiative to support and attract startups. The initial results are very encouraging as we already attracted 80 to 90 new startups over the last two years. The unique selling point of our region is the huge B2B market for digital and tech companies. The city ensures that here are the platforms and the infrastructure to tap into this demand.

Are there any specific marketing activities you undertake to promote Dusseldorf as a world class city for international firms to relocate?

In FDI rankings, Düsseldorf and the surrounding region are recognised as one of the top European FDI destinations. Düsseldorf takes part in many international events and is in constant exchange with its global partners. This year for instance, we exhibit for the first time at the FDI EXPO in London on May 17 and 18 and are looking forward to meeting international companies particularly from the UK. Major events such as MIPIM and Expo Real are on our yearly schedule in order to promote Düsseldorf as the business location in Europe. In addition, we run specific promotions and organise seminars on the business location of Düsseldorf in our main target markets on a regular basis.

The dynamic and strengths of Düsseldorf are probably not yet truly visible on a global scale – competing cities and locations achieve a much higher recognition. Therefore, we are currently implementing a new strategy and campaign for our city marketing. Also, by hosting global sports events such as the Grand Depart/Tour de France or the Table Tennis World Cup, we put Düsseldorf on the agenda of the international media 

and raise the city´s profile internationally.

 

And finally: What are the key factors that you believe attracts international companies to Dusseldorf?

 

The attractiveness as a location for international companies is based on the ideal combination of key location factors such as the central location of Düsseldorf in Europe, the huge regional market potential, the transport infrastructure, the high quality of living, the supply of a well-trained talent pool at a very attractive and moderate cost level, combined with the ease of doing business due to the level of service by the city and the business service providers in the city.

 

For instance, 31% of the EU´s entire population live within a 500 km radius of Düsseldorf. In one hour by car, one can reach 11.4 million people and 500.000 companies. The International Airport – only 15 minutes from the central business district – connects Düsseldorf to 190 destinations worldwide and ensures that Düsseldorf based companies have the second best international reach of all German cities. Also, the international Trade fair Messe Düsseldorf is here: more than 40 annual fairs are staged at the premises in Düsseldorf, including 23 leading events in their respective sectors.

 

I am glad that Düsseldorf enjoys an excellent reputation among expats as a great place for their families, but also for their career. The Annual Quality of Living Survey from the Mercer consulting group ranks Düsseldorf sixth among all cities in the world. The leading Internet portal for expats, InterNations, also recently compared more than 60 countries and 35 cities in their 2016 “Expat Insider Survey”. The not-so-surprising result: Düsseldorf ranked fourth in the world in terms of quality of life, work-life balance, ease of settling in, cost of living, and family life. And Düsseldorf was the number one destination for expats among all German cites.

 

What counts, too, is that we have an attractive cost level in comparison to competing German and European cities in the field of tax (local trade tax in Düsseldorf 15,4 Euro, in Frankfurt 16,1 Euro, in Munich 17,15 Euro per 100.000 Euro profit). Also, the average commercial rent, cost for housing and accommodation and labour cost is more attractive in Düsseldorf than in any other major German business centres.

Therefore, it is right that the service units of the Office of Economic Development support new companies with a comprehensive package of tailored services.