Thuringia: Welcome to Europe’s Fast Track Center!

January, 2018

Thuringia is one of the most sought-after investment locations at the heart of Europe, which leaves virtually nothing to be desired for investors from all over the world. Fresh proof of this is provided by the top investments of the year 2017 and the continuing evolution of the state as an innovative business and technology location.

Entrance of the Carl Zeiss Jena plant © Carl Zeiss Jena

The appeal of Jena as a city of business and science has again increased markedly thanks to some recently-announced and already-implemented investments. Carl Zeiss AG has big plans in Jena: by the year 2023 it wants to bundle its previous locations in Jena into a single site and thereby construct its second-largest location in the world. Jena is an integral component of Zeiss’ global investment strategy and plugs seamlessly into a range of international projects to expand, modernize and reframe locations that Zeiss has been implementing inter alia in Germany, Europe and Asia since 2011. Just recently, the company announced investment plans of 30 million euros in an “innovation hub” at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. “As a global technology leader the goal of our investments is to exploit the existing potentials in our growth markets”, says Prof Dr Michael Kaschke, chair of the group management board of Carl Zeiss AG. “For this we need an even stronger presence and an even better networking across the innovation hotspots.” In Jena this means close cooperation with institutions such as Friedrich Schiller University, Ernst Abbe University of Applied Sciences, Ilmenau University of Technology, other regional universities of technology and local institutes, such as those of the Max Planck Society, while also involving partner companies and local suppliers. The bundling at the site where the company was originally founded, which currently houses over 2,000 employees, will be possible because the optics specialist is buying currently partly unused Schott company grounds, rehabilitating them and constructing new buildings on them for an integrated high-tech location. In the course of the investment, Zeiss aims to recruit around 500 new employees and create a dynamic growth environment for start-up companies.

The pharmaceutical company Ever Pharma from Austria, also located in Jena and operating globally, specializes in the manufacture and packaging of high-grade ampoule and vial products and in innovative implants; in Thuringia it manufactures hormone products and anaesthetics, among others. To expand its product capacities, the company has invested more than 100 million euros in the construction of a new production hall as well as a new laboratory building. This follows a new logistics building cunstructed recently at the Jena-Lobeda site. In the course of the latest expansion project, Ever Pharma is looking to increase its number of employees to 300 from 270 currently.

Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering (IOF Jena) © IOF Jena

A further guarantee of the appeal of Jena as a science location for what is now over 25 years has been the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering (IOF Jena). Right on time for its 25th anniversary, IOF Jena is giving itself the finest present with the inauguration of the new state-of-the-art technology center: after a two-year construction time, the new building is ready and offers room for its own drawing of optical fibers, which are in global demand principally for the development of a new generation of powerful lasers. In the course of the last quarter of a century the Institute has evinced sustained positive development and has got more than 2,400 projects successfully off the ground. The Institute is one of a total of 19 that were established in the new federal states by the Fraunhofer Society after German reunification and one which will remain a constant in the future research scene of the Federal Republic. Fraunhofer will also be investing in a new project center in Erfurt, thereby further accelerating its research in the field of microelectronics. At the project center, initially set up for five years, an initial 20 employees will conduct research in close collaboration with local companies, as well as Ilmenau University of Technology and the University of Applied Sciences Erfurt; the number of staff is expected to grow to around 60.

Thuringia is a sought-after address for logistics-related companies in particular. Thanks to its central location at the heart of Europe and excellent transport connections, routes to customers are quick and short. Logistics companies are the principal beneficiaries of this; it really puts wind in the sails of the implementation of their business concepts. Since December 2017, with the start of operation of the ICE hub in Thuringia’s state capital Erfurt, this effect has again been considerably reinforced: two of the most important ICE routes meet in Erfurt, dramatically reducing journey times to the cities of Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt am Main, Leipzig and Dresden. For instance, a train passenger now needs just 1 hr 50 min instead of 2hr 30 min to get from Berlin to Erfurt. And he reaches Munich from Thuringia in 2hr 15 min, at a speed of up to 300km/h. More than 33,000 passengers arrive in Erfurt every day. For the area round Erfurt central station specifically ICE-City Erfurt this is giving rise to interesting investment and development opportunities. On behalf of the Free State of Thuringia and in close coordination with the city of Erfurt, LEG Thüringen, as an experienced developer, is responsible for the redevelopment and transformation of the urban district around the ICE hub. Over an initial area of 30 hectares, hotels, modern offices, green parks and attractive congress and residential centers are planned to come into being in the next decade. And the rest of Thuringia will also benefit considerably from the new ICE hub at Germany’s rapid center due to its nodal connections. This transport evolution is attractive to companies and investors, for example to the online trader Lesara. The young, rapidly growing company specializes in trade in fashion goods; it struck gold in its search for a suitable logistics location in Thuringia in 2017, more precisely at the freight traffic center Erfurt (GVZ). A state-of-the-art logistics center approximately 30,000m² in size, in which 45 million euros are being invested, is being constructed here on a 7-hectare site. The company wants to ship its fashion and lifestyle products from Erfurt to 24 countries, initially with 200 new employees.

In addition, another company in the sector, Berger Contract Logistics, is investing in Erfurt. A new logistics center, through which the distribution of high-quality wines and spirits of the Mack & Schühle AG will be carried out, is coming into being on a 10-hectare plot in the industrial area ILZ Erfurt for around 30 million euros. The company is initially planning to establish 70 new jobs.

Growth is also taking place in three other industrial parks in Thuringia: because of its convenient location in the tri-border area between Thuringia, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt, the German subsidiary of the US-American online vehicle trader COPART is establishing a new branch in the industrial park at the “Leipzig-Altenburg” airport. The NASDAQ-listed company is investing around 11.6 million euros in expanding its European business. “We are delighted to have found this location and hereby press ahead with our nationwide coverage, thus expanding our service to our customers,” says Alain van Münster, CEO of Copart. The long-term plan is for 50 to 70 employees at the location.

Manufacturer of camper vans Westfalia has opened its new production site in Gotha © Westfalia

Somewhat further west in Thuringia, namely in Gotha, traditional manufacturer of camper vans Westfalia has opened its new production site. The company, which belongs to the French Rapido Group, has, thanks to the support of LEG Thüringen, found a suitable property here to produce Westfalia-brand campers; the company has invested over 5 million euros in its new location and is initially employing 50 new workers in Gotha.

At Thuringia’s largest industrial park “Erfurter Kreuz” Vivisol Deutschland GmbH, which belongs to an Italian corporate group, is bringing together its already existing Thuringian locations on 12,000 of land. The company specializes in devices in the field of oxygen therapy and assisted breathing at home and is investing more than 2.5 million euros in a new office building, offering space to 130 employees.