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REGIONS EUROPE


Acrisis-proof future G


THEMAYORSPEAKS: THOMAS GEISEL


DÜSSELDORF MAYOR THOMAS GEISEL IS UPBEAT ON THE CITY’S RECOVERY PROSPECTS, AS HE EXPLAINS TO WENDY ATKINS


ermany has been touted as a country that ‘got coronavirus right’. In Düsseldorf, the state capital of North


Rhine Westphalia (NRW), mayor Thomas Geisel is now concentrating on reigniting opportuni- ties in the city. Düsseldorf went into partial lockdown in


mid-March. “After four weeks, we were able to loosen the restrictions, step by step, and nowwe arebacktosomewhatnormallife,” saysMrGeisel. He reports that Covid-19 and the subse-


quent lockdown hit all parts of the economy hard, withsmall and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) the most vulnerable to disruption. “For me, it was of utmost importance to help those who needed immediate assistance. The German government set up funds to support the econ- omy, but it takes time to organise the applica- tion and fund delivery systemfor those compa- nies in need,” he says. “Many Düsseldorf companies could not


wait that long. Therefore, I set up an extra fund that provided €500,000 in emergency aid. This helped many SMEs to survive the first weeks until further support becameavailable.”


Don’twaste a crisis Mr Geisel says every crisis generates opportuni- ties for change and innovation. “I see a strong potential for the use of modern technologies in daily working life,” he says. “Many meetings are nowheld online, fairsandconferences take place virtually, and monetary services like online and contactless payment methods have quickly gained acceptance. These changes present oppor- tunities, which we will grasp and develop into a better and more crisis-proof future.” Düsseldorf’s growing start-up scene


includes about 400 firms. Its annual ‘Start-up Week’ has been rescheduled to September with a hybrid live and online format.


“I expect that the technology-orientated


start-up scene, in particular, will easily adapt to new forms of exchange like online confer- ences, virtual meetings or video pitch events,” the mayor says. “An example of one of these reorganised events is the A-Summit in July, where more than 30 accelerator programmes from NRW were brought together online over three days by our local DigiHub to match cor- porates with start-ups, get information about financing or take their business model to the next level.” His current focus is both on enticing new


companies to invest and encouraging firms already located in the city to retain staff and grow. “Of course, due to the lockdown and travel restrictions, investment numbers have decreased, but they have not stopped entirely. We’re still seeing investment, such as ThyssenKrupp Elevators, which decided to move its offices and 400 staff to Düsseldorf to work in a better and more international busi- ness environment.”


Nationalmeasures Mr Geisel says some moves by the national government are also contributing to Düsseldorf’s recovery: “VAT has been reduced from 19% to 16% for general goods and from 7% to 5% for consumables. This will have a fur- ther impact on consumer behaviour and sup- port the economy. “It was also a very important decision for


our national governmentto give cities andcom- munities the opportunity to react to their spe- cific Covid-19 situation individually. Although there are somenationwide rules, we can decide howtoimplement specificmeasures in our city. This ensures that restrictions are introduced where necessary and freedomis retained where possible,” he adds.■


ALTHOUGHTHERE ARESOMENATIONWIDE RULES,WECANDECIDEHOWTO IMPLEMENT SPECIFIC MEASURES INOURCITY


August/September 2020 www.fDiIntelligence.com 63


CURRICULUMVITAE THOMAS GEISEL


2014 Düsseldorf Mayor


Previously Enron, Ruhrgas


CITYPROFILE DÜSSELDORF


Country Germany


Population 640,000


UrbanGDP $86.8bn


Unemployment 6.8%


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