Numbers Don't Lie

Dec. 21, 2004
Appearances to the contrary, Stuttgart is a technology powerhouse.

The taxi driver seemed surprised as he eased his Mercedes into light early-morning traffic in downtown Stuttgart. He hadn't heard that the European statistical agency Eurostat had called the city the high-tech capital of Europe. The truth is that this taxi driver didn't much care, more interested as he was in urging a first-time visitor to try a local beer brewed by monks. But monks had little to do with the postwar transformation of Stuttgart from a sleepy provincial city into Germany's high-tech capital, with nearly a quarter of its workers employed in high-tech manufacturing and service sectors in 1997. Combine that with its close proximity to Karlsruhe and Tbingen -- which came in second and seventh, respectively, on Eurostat's list -- and Stuttgart's importance in the technology arena becomes even more obvious. Part of that success is owing to the presence of DaimlerChrysler AG -- indeed, the three-pointed star of the Mercedes sits atop the railway station in the center of the city. DaimlerChrysler, Porsche AG, and their many local suppliers account for more than 25% of the region's employment. But Stuttgart and environs are also home to Bosch and Zeiss, important manufacturers in their own right. Ringed by rolling hills and just a short drive from the Black Forest, Stuttgart has none of the feel of a U.S. industrial center, but it is home to the headquarters of 20 of Germany's 50 largest companies. It's hard to argue with the numbers: With 43.8% of the population employed in manufacturing and related industries, the region surrounding Stuttgart is the most industrialized part of Germany. It's also one of the most productive; per-capita GDP is 25% higher than the average for all of Germany. One appeal of Stuttgart, which is the principal city of the state of Baden-Wrttemberg, is that it lies at the geographic heart of Europe. A four-hour flight can take one from Stuttgart to nearly any city in Europe, while modern railway lines connect the region to the rest of Germany and the continent. That easy access to transportation makes possible the region's status on a global stage. With only 0.2% of the world's population, Baden-Wrttemberg accounts for more than 2% of world exports. Another appeal is the seriousness with which Stuttgart and Baden-Wrttemberg take education and research. Some 3% of the region's GDP is poured back into technology.

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