»I am always very proud when we support interesting investment projects in Germany«
Peggy Görlitz has been working for Germany Trade & Invest (GTAI) for around 12 years and supports foreign investors, and other stakeholders in the plastics industry.
What part of your job do you like most?
There is a lot I like about my work. The most beautiful feeling is when I stand with the local mayor at the industrial site that the foreign investor has chosen for his new manufacturing facility. We talk about what will be where and how it will look. This fills me with pride, because I have met the goal of my work as a GTAI employee and can hand over the project and rest of the settlement process to the economic development agency of the respective state and its local partners.
What is the most exciting moment during the settlement process?
An exciting moment is when the investor has decided on a location in Germany and the implementation of his project begins. GTAI hands over the project to the federal states and the local business promoters. However, we like to stay in touch about the start of investment and whether there is still information and support needed from the GTAI. It often takes another year or two before the facility opens. Then the biggest moment is when the company opens its production and we can be part of the official commissioning. The most gratifying moment of such a settlement project is when investors tell us “GTAI, you really helped us with a lot of information, and you gave us the good contacts so that we could concentrate on the investment project and then push ahead with production.”
How long does such a settlement process take – from the first contact to commissioning?
Sometimes this can happen very fast: one to two years until the facility opens. There are a large number of very well developed commercial and industrial properties in Germany, which are immediately available for settlement. Ultimately, however, this depends on the degree of maturity of the project – that is, the investor’s specific plans and financing needs.
However, we also have projects that we accompany for three to five years before we come to a decision and the investment can start.
PTC Asia International Trade Show for Power Transmission and Control, GTAI at the German Pavilion, Shanghai, November 2016 © GTAI
What awaits the customer after the first contact with GTAI?
First, we provide the customer with the information he or she requests in the most concrete way possible. We permanently have industry information as well as selected structural data on locations in Germany ready. Then I look closely at the company, what they are planning to do, where they would fit in well, where potential for them exists in Germany and, of course, across the European market. For example, for a plastics company, the European market is particularly important. In the settlement process, we are often in competition with other European locations, and then we consider with selected federal states how to show the advantages here. The cooperation with the business development agencies in the federal states as well as plastic clusters is of particular interest. We try to show suitable locations in selected regions in Germany where the company can find very good settlement opportunities. Sometimes companies focus on specific regions in Europe and Germany in their value chain and customer relationships. Depending on which region is most interesting for the company, we prepare a selection of location offers with the federal states. For plastics processors, for example, these are specialized chemical sites or correspondence locations in their vicinity where plastic manufacturers and processors are located and where they can find the necessary infrastructure. I always find it very exciting to make a long list of locations, and then we make the comparisons with transport links, costs for the investment project and ongoing operating costs, which play an increasingly important role. We make comparisons and make site visits in cooperation with the federal states. Following the decision on the location, the economic development agencies establish contacts with the utilities and waste disposal companies, then assist the investor in the recruitment of skilled workers during the entire building application phase, and also provide assistance with possible financing and funding of the project. In this final stage, the federal states cooperate with GTAI, because we have in house employees who provide information about the entire system of legal and tax conditions and further information on financing and funding opportunities. The concrete application for funding then runs through the local partners, the investment banks in the federal states, the home bank they choose and with the business development agency. This means that as soon as the company has decided on a location, we can hand over the project.
With which arguments do you convince your customers?
Our main argument alongside the complete value-added chain in the plastics industry in Germany is access to the European market. It is a very challenging market, the plastics processed here and the products offered are of a very high quality. The European Chemicals Legislation (REACH) plays a significant role ensuring that the plastics that are used here in the European market are considered “safe,” including materials used in the entire production process. For example, the products must have been tested with regard to their various applications, such as suitability for use in homes, in the food industry, in the clothing industry, and so on. As a result, the German, as well as the European companies as a whole, have a very high sense of responsibility for their products and this is guaranteed along the entire value chain.
Other arguments for foreign companies are the opportunity to build on existing research potential and to use research institutions, such as university institutes, Fraunhofer institutes and private plastics institutes and companies. A very good example of this is the Fraunhofer Pilot Plant Center for Polymer Synthesis in Schkopau in central Germany, where foreign companies can also use this high-quality and globally unique infrastructure for their research. However, other research institutes as well as research departments of large enterprises offer a very strong incentive for German and foreign SMEs to further develop their products or to generate them within the supply chains for the European market. I continue to see strong growth potential in the automotive sector, because more and more plastics and new materials are being used there, and there are more and more opportunities for suppliers to work directly on site for the German automotive industry.
In addition, a final reason is that the German market, with its “Made in Germany” brand, has very high standards, so foreign companies are also interested in developing and selling their plastics in the toy sector or in the food sector.
It is a peculiarity of the plastics industry that the entire value chain has to be on location: the sustainable supply of raw materials, the plastics manufacturers, the processors, the plastic machinery manufacturers, the customers must all be close to the market. In this value chain, we support the investors, right through to recycling, for which we also have experts here at GTAI. In the investor-consulting department, we can support the projects across topics and across teams.
FCC technology Valor ™ maximizes refinery profitability © BASF SE
Which factors have led to Germany becoming Europe’s most important and largest location for the plastics industry?
In Germany, we have a very good basis for plastics production and processing. In Central Europe / Germany, unlike in other regions of the world, the raw material base is sustainably guaranteed through a well-developed pipeline network to the production sites and there is a secure, stable supply of energy for the production process of the plastics. The entire value chain, where companies can “dock” in at any point, is also very important for an efficient production chain.
If I look at the foreign investments that come to Europe in the plastics sector, Germany is the best location where companies can invest and serve all of their customers locally.
The large German and foreign, internationally-operating chemical companies all have their plastic manufacturing facilities here and have very high competence which they have developed over 60 years. In the last 20 years, they have expanded and continued to invest in the world’s most modern facilities.
The companies that GTAI usually supports with investment projects are the converters and the plastics machinery manufacturers. The European market, and within this, the German market in particular, is very well-positioned and has established customer chains in the automotive, consumer goods and electronics industries. In lightweight construction also, plastics and composite materials play an important role today. With the research on new materials and the wider dissemination of applications of plastics, a very strong qualitative growth is expected for the next 20 years by various forecasting institutes as well as by associations and the companies themselves. The fiber composites used in the wind energy, automotive and aerospace industries as well as in the construction industry – a large growth market – play an important role.
The injection molding process, for example, has been used since the 1950s. Thanks to excellent engineers and plastics machinery manufacturers, has since been continuously developed into one of the most modern production processes in plastics processing, and is used increasingly in Industrie 4.0 application solutions. Germany is also a pioneer in terms of new production processes in plastics processing. This opens up great opportunities for further applications for plastics. For example, Germany is a leader in the development and application of additive manufacturing processes (3D printing) alongside the USA.
What role do clusters play?
There are a number of very well established clusters in Germany: regional concentrations of SMEs, large companies in plastics production and processing (mainly at chemical sites), as well as the processing industry and customer industries to research institutions and specialized and regional plastic networks.
Networks are particularly important for SMEs because they can exchange ideas with partners in the value chain, in particular with large companies, and dock with the value chain or even participate in procurements. Networks between SMEs, as well as between SMEs and large enterprises, often aim at the development of new production processes and / or new products and their applications. In particular, these platforms also offer small and medium-sized enterprises access to research infrastructures, for example from private or Fraunhofer institutes as well as university research institutions. Another advantage of regional networks is that you can also integrate professionals from colleges and universities at an early stage in the company. Last but not least, skilled workers are also trained and educated through such regional networks, and so-called pools of skilled workers are established. It is also very important for foreign companies that they find experienced employees, because they usually only bring 1-2 employees but otherwise the company is set up with local specialists.
In cooperation with the chemical parks / chemical sites, SMEs can find very good framework conditions and infrastructure for their settlement project. Plastic processors need also a specific chemical infrastructure and good access to raw materials / intermediates, which they do not just find in a business park far away, somewhere in the “green field”.
Against the background of further internationalization, I also consider clusters important: network structures can offer the SME’s, in particular, regionally oriented support for their ability to internationalize.
Finally, the aspect of location marketing: Clusters, with their special strengths and their innovative companies, as well as high-quality research infrastructure, can also be marketed far better internationally.
New BASF-plastics Ultramid® Advanced N © BASF SE
How do you see the future of Germany as a location for the plastics industry?
Germany will be able to maintain its place: using state-of-the-art processes to develop efficient, high quality, new and sustainable products. Resource efficiency – the use of raw materials, energy and manpower is at the forefront. With a high added value and refinement of the products of the plastics industry, all aimed at a longer life and a higher utilization (recycling and re-use in the material cycle) – Germany remains a location with quality products.
With which industrial sectors at GTAI do you have points of contact?
The world’s top companies of plastic machinery manufacturers are located in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Therefore, there is great interest from Switzerland for settling in Germany, not least because of interest in the EU internal market. Nevertheless, Italian, Spanish and French companies are very interested in the possibilities in Germany, because they also want to come onto the market with the label “Made in Germany”. The same applies to Canadian and US companies.
In addition, the plastic processing, traditional injection moulding is a very modern manufacturing process, and is also very energy and resource efficient in material usage, and modern manufacturing processes like 3D printing play an increasingly important role too. With plastic-based 3D printing, also known as “additive manufacturing”, there are huge growth opportunities and new areas of application for plastics. The plastics industry is also a pioneer in digitization and automation. The production of plastic-based composite materials (composites) is another strong growth market.
I often have interesting enquiries here, also from large companies from abroad. Since I also have to consider the whole production process, from the application to disposal right from the initial enquiry, I work in these projects with my colleagues who are the experts in these other topics. It is always appreciated by foreign companies that we have industrial expertise down the whole chain here at GTAI and that we have contacts with companies, clusters, research institutions in a wide range of areas, and can offer our support across teams.
A reduced 3D print model of a car seat © BASF SE
Which particularly important or interesting settlements have you accompanied in recent years that you are particularly proud of?
During my 12 years at the GTAI and before that, I have supported a vast range of plastics companies. One project, which I started before my time with the GTAI, and then supported an expansion investment for, was Manuli Stretch, a foil manufacturer from Italy, who settled in eastern Germany in the Dow ValuePark®. Another example is another plastic manufacturer from Italy, Fustiplast which manufactures plastic industrial tanks where hazardous chemicals can be stored. This company has gone to North Rhine-Westphalia. Not only did the funding play a big role in the decision of both companies, but so did the market itself and the infrastructure at such a chemical location as Dow’s ValuePark®. Manuli Stretch can buy the granules right at the site and process it into high quality, food-grade foils. The Manuli family is constantly expanding, because they know that they have found an excellent location here in Germany. In Saxony-Anhalt, I supported another Italian company, Radici, with a major investment project. I also supported a number of smaller companies that produce plastic bottles, PET bottles for end users in the beverage industry, and wanted to be close to their customers. Since they had Polish customers, they preferred a location near the Polish border, but in Germany, so they get the necessary professionals and the production is ensured. Now I’m working on two-three projects from southern Europe and two larger ones from the USA.
Where do you go on business trips?
There are three major trade fairs worldwide in the plastics sector: CHINAPLAST in Asia, which we use less for our acquisition because most Asian companies are more likely to produce for the Asian market. Every three years, the plastics trade fair NPE takes place in the USA, and the main trade fair, the K-show, takes place here in Germany every three years in Düsseldorf. I visit the fairs in North America and of course in Germany. We have Japan in our acquisition focus as well, which is also a world leader because of its high technology and high quality applications. In addition, acquisition trips and events make sense for me within Europe. Actually, I can already cover a lot of interesting acquisition regions of the world with a visit to the K 2019 in Düsseldorf, because the whole global industry will be present there.
Overall, we concentrate on the leading fairs and main target regions for capacity reasons. As part of our annual team strategy, we monitor very closely from which regions in which sector foreign direct investments come to Europe and Germany, and in which segments the strongest growth expectations exist.
About Peggy Görlitz
Peggy grew up in the old East Germany in Halle / Saale – one of the most important centers of the chemical and plastics industry in eastern Germany. After graduating from high school, she completed a vocational training in agricultural engineering, and then in 1988 started her studies at the Martin Luther University Halle Wittenberg in two directions, one at the Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, the other at the Faculty of Agriculture, specializing in agricultural engineering. After German reunification in 1990, she co-founded the Economic Research Institute at her University, at the same time continued, and completed her studies. Subsequently the institute was spun off from the university, and the number of employees increased to 40. In the meantime, she finished her studies as a graduate economist for business administration and economics. At the institute, she set up her own field in a relatively short time where she accompanied settlements in industrial and commercial areas in Eastern Germany, mainly in Saxony-Anhalt, but also in Saxony and Thuringia. At the end of the 90s, the topic “Location development on chemical sites” became more in focus. In addition, she was the cluster manager for the large chemicals and plastics cluster in central Germany, which she helped to develop from foundation to establishment. As managing director of the CeChemNet , she was active in the network of the major chemical parks and sites in Eastern Germany with the focus on international site marketing and settlement. This topic has finally led her to Berlin: one of the predecessor organizations of GTAI contacted her to see if she would join it. She is still there today.