"The A7 motorway plays an enormous role”
Iris Meyer from Wirtschaftsagentur Neumünster and Marc-Mario Bertermann from EGNO see NORDGATE as a success story
An interview with Iris Meyer (Wirtschaftsagentur Neumünster) and Marc-Mario Bertermann (EGNO, Norderstedt) about the opportunities for NORDGATE in the Hamburg metropolitan region.
With 500 company settlements in ten years, the NORDGATE alliance has experienced a success story that is unique in Germany. How do you see the future development of this community?
Marc-Mario Bertermann: Over the past years, the NORDGATE alliance has proven its strength and usefulness. The numbers of enquiries and settlements have increased in all six municipalities thanks to this cooperation. For the businesses seeking real estate, this means a wider selection as well as less effort required for the search, and for the partners it means more attention is drawn to available local real estate. We will continue this good collaboration.
Iris Meyer: That’s right. The past ten years were really a unique success story. The results so far are already clear: Cooperation pays off. We can celebrate this success without resting on our laurels. From the beginning, our goal was to always stay one step ahead. This will also remain our guiding principle in the future. I'm confident that we will continue writing our success story with this same spirit in the years to come.
Could you imagine accepting more municipalities into this association in the future?
Marc-Mario Bertermann: The NORDGATE partnership has developed and a trusting relationship has been established over the course of years. This occurred through joint sales activities, marketing initiatives, trade fair visits and regular dialogue. We are now a close-knit community. At the moment, it’s hard for me to imagine this being possible with additional municipalities. The alliance is also kept alive by personal relationships.
Iris Meyer: The partnership is the result of many years of collaboration and mutual trust. Regular dialogue and joint activities have led to intensive collaboration.
How was it possible to form a mutually supportive alliance of communities out of a group of competitors and self-avowed individualists?
Iris Meyer: I believe we are driven by the idea that our alliance is what primarily brings out each of our individual strengths. Collaboration is necessary for us to open up new prospects. For example, participating in the real estate trade fair Expo Real in Munich is a difficult task for individual communities. By attending the trade fair as NORDGATE, we increase the domestic and international visibility of our region as well as each individual partner as a place for business. We do not see this as a contradiction. Each partner certainly has their own interests, which result from their working environment. But this is not an obstacle. Instead, it drives our productivity. We are able to learn with and from one another. That’s why our goal was always to attract visibility for all partners in the association. If you consider just the sale of real estate spaces, a square metre can only be purchased at one specific location. But new jobs and production factors remain and these are generated within the region. As a result, the added value is also created here.
Marc-Mario Bertermann: Our neighbours are not competitors, they are the closest commercial area to us. Companies think in regional terms and many of them operate across Germany. For companies based outside of Europe, "Hamburg" extends all the way to Hannover. On a map of Europe, the entirety of Schleswig-Holstein is a small dot. This makes it even more important and correct to pool our expertise and show our individual strengths. This is what NORDGATE does with its six locations – neighbours collaborate as partners to gain visibility together."
In such a harmonious partnership, how do you react when a company from one of your communities relocates to another within the association?
Iris Meyer: First and foremost, it's the company making that decision. And that’s a good thing. There are usually sound economic reasons for doing so. If a company wants to expand its capacities, this is initially good news for the location. Instead of moving away from the region, expansion to a different NORDGATE community helps to retain jobs within the region. What’s more, the freed-up capacities offer space for new potential businesses, which in turn will generate new added value in the region. We want to support that.
Marc-Mario Bertermann: Here’s a specific example: In 2015, the Jungheinrich plant in Norderstedt needed space for a new spare parts warehouse. Because this was not structurally possible at the Norderstedt site, the project was implemented in Kaltenkirchen. In the end, this was a win-win situation for everyone involved: A solution for the company, another business settled in Kaltenkirchen, expansion of production, and training opportunities in the Norderstedt plant thanks to freed-up capacities. And let’s not forget: The jobs are retained within the region.
After twelve years of collaboration, there must be a scarcity of large attractive properties in NORDGATE: How do you adapt your marketing to the new situation?
Marc-Mario Bertermann: Is "large" the same thing as attractive? We see them as different factors. It’s true that very large spaces, for logistics for example, are becoming scarcer. But it’s also true that we are still able to offer large properties for combined production and office facilities. Whether a property is attractive does not depend on the size, but rather on the sum of all the site’s advantages.
Iris Meyer: It’s a question of perspective. Like all goods in the market economy, "space" is also a scarce resource. Our task is to manage this scarcity as best we can. We are currently in a transition process. The times of affordable real estate are probably over for now. Real estate is costly not only to provide and acquire but also to maintain. The trend is moving clearly away from large properties to more attractive spaces. This new perspective on real estate is an advantage for NORDGATE, since we still have combinable production and office spaces to offer.
What is the role of sustainability and environmental protection when planning company settlements? How would you react if a chemicals company wanted to set up business near a residential neighbourhood?
Iris Meyer: That’s an interesting thought. I can’t recall any enquiry along those lines. Nevertheless, if a company were to express that intention, there are clear rules regarding environmental protection at both the state and at the municipal levels. These regulations must be observed. The issue of environmental protection brings us to the role of sustainability within our association. In my conversations it becomes clear that this concept is also being addressed by companies. It is important for us to retain or acquire innovative and future-oriented companies in the region. On the other hand, we assist the companies in seeking out resource-efficient solutions. This is important for us as a municipal association.
Marc-Mario Bertermann: Apart from the legal requirements, these days a community’s image also depends on adopting a sustainable position. Companies expect a strategic orientation towards sustainable urban development. For example, Norderstedt has proven its focus on resource-efficient urban development with many awards and continues to move forward.
How important are Fuhlsbüttel Airport and Hamburg Harbour for the economy from Neumünster to Norderstedt?
Marc-Mario Bertermann: You would be surprised: Norderstedt is also a "harbour city." We actually have a remarkable number of established maritime businesses. But of course the decisive factor is also the geographical proximity, the ease of reaching the harbour and airport, with the latter a major location advantage for internationally operating companies and an argument in favour of NORDGATE.
Iris Meyer: The A7 motorway plays an enormous role. The railway network is also a major factor. This makes it possible to move goods and containers quickly and effortlessly between Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein and Scandinavia from Hamburg Harbour via Neumünster. Expansion of the A20 motorway will further improve this situation and add to the attraction of Neumünster and NORDGATE as logistics locations.
Source: Article from "Die Wirtschaft im Norden" 01/2020/sh:z, Images NORDGATE/M. Blome