WOLFSBURG -- Efforts to entice suppliers to relocate to Volkswagen's headquarters city have succeeded in replacing about half the automaker's cutbacks in production jobs here.
Over the last decade VW has cut about 10,000 jobs in Wolfsburg, mostly in the production area, says Henning Eckel. He is a member of the board of Wolfsburg AG, the development agency supported by the city and VW.
Since 1995, the drive has managed to attract 140 automotive suppliers to the Wolfsburg area bringing about 5,000 jobs.
Still tied to VW
But the bulk of the employment growth has been for engineers and other services -- two-thirds at companies that work closely with VW's engineering teams, says Eckel.
The changes have somewhat diversified the labor base in Wolfsburg, but the city remains economically tied to VW.
To spark more growth, Wolfs-burg AG has developed a supplier show in the northern German city. The next is October 27-29 (www.izb-online.com).
The show fills a gap because Europe doesn't have a dedicated original-equipment parts supplier fair. Partsmakers see it as an opportunity to present themselves.
The concept is particularly interesting to Tier 2 and non-traditional suppliers of the VW group who get a rare chance to reach engineering departments at carmakers.
VW's support has been critical to the show's success. Half the visitors come from VW, including VW international assembly operations, says Eckel.
The last show in March 2003 attracted 24,500 visitors. The show expects 30,000 visitors and 400 exhibitors this year.
Wolfsburg is exploring other ideas to reduce its dependence on VW. The city and VW are discussing setting up a cluster center of competence for vehicle assembly and development. The idea is to develop skills transferable to other areas and reduce the city's economic monoculture.
"For example, surface technologies are important for many industrial areas," says Eckel.
Wolfsburg is also seeking information technology start-ups, says Eckel, as well as other companies that are predominantly focused on other industries but have substantial sales to the auto industry.