A column by Marco Fuchs: thoughts about time and space

Bremen is far better than its reputation

About space sector and other strengths of the locations

August 29, 2019. Bremen has recently gained a new state government that has attracted considerable nationwide attention as it marks the first time that a coalition comprising SPD, the Greens and the left-wing party Die Linke has formed a government in a western German state. On top of this, Bremen has a new mayor and head of government, Andreas Bovenschulte, who just this spring was still serving as mayor of the town of Weyhe outside Bremen. Shortly before the state election, I read a long interview with Bovenschulte in the Sunday newspaper “Die Welt am Sonntag”. Not surprisingly, I was greatly pleased by this.

After all, I grew up in Bremen, my family and many friends live here and OHB was founded in and has its headquarters in the city. That’s why I welcome the nationwide media coverage of what is going on here. I also believe that this interest will persist for a while due to the particular political constellation that we have here. This is not least of all also because 2019 is already shaping up to be a highly political year given the European elections and the upcoming state elections in Saxony, Brandenburg and Thuringia and the new coalition in Bremen is an interesting alternative that will generally attract greater attention.

As it is, I think that Bremen deserves to receive more attention nationwide. Not only because of the political developments, but particularly as it is far better than its reputation as a place to do business, to live and to work. As a business-owner, I get around a lot, especially in Germany. And in the conversations that I hold I often hear judgments and impressions with regard to Bremen that are mostly not very nuanced; even the Bremen weather is often depicted as being worse than it really is. There is no denying that Bremen has the highest debt of any of the 16 German states. It is also true that the education system exhibits shortcomings. And it cannot be denied that there is a wide gap between the rich and the poor in Bremen and Bremerhaven. Yet, it is quite simply wrong to infer from this that nothing at all works properly in our city-state.

In the space technology sector is Bremen one of the world’s top locations

On the contrary, our own space technology industry clearly demonstrates that the precise opposite is the case. In our sector, Bremen is one of the world’s top locations. I can think of only a few places anywhere in the world where there is a comparable concentration at a single location of leading industrial companies, renowned research institutes and high-class training and further education institutions in space. Around 140 companies and 20 institutes with roughly 12,000 employees generate more than 4 billion euros per year in the “City of Space”. This is not least of all one of the reasons why OHB is not only committed to its original and main location with great conviction but has also been expanding here continuously and on a sustained basis for many years. In 2018 alone, we recruited more than 200 new employees in Bremen, with another 150 to be joining us in 2019. We are also expanding the infrastructure on our company premises. Between now and 2020, we will be investing around EUR 20 million in a new, large integration hall as well as additional laboratories and building extensions.

However, these foundations can look back on a history spanning many centuries in my hometown as Bremen is a traditional commercial and business location. The term “Hanseatic city” is inextricably linked to Bremen and membership in the Hanseatic League is an integral part of its identity. Hanseatic values are still observed in both social and economic life to this very day. These values entail a certain attitude, integrity and dependability. In terms of society, this also means generosity: besides Bremen, Hamburg is the only other city in Germany with such a strong sense of civil commitment, which expresses itself in the contributions made by citizens to the well-being of the community through voluntary work or foundations.

Business has always played a major role in Bremen

So, business has always played a major role in Bremen and continues to do so with great success, it should be added. Not only with respect to space technology, but also in an economic sense. In terms of gross value added, Bremen ranks second behind Baden-Württemberg out of all the German states. The other day I saw a very interesting diagram in a business newspaper, setting out the economic power of various European countries by region. According to this, Bremen’s gross national product is 47,900 euros per inhabitant, which is far above the German average of 38,200 euros and well in excess of the average for other German cities such as Cologne and Düsseldorf and even more substantially so compared, for example, with the French region of Midi-Pyrénées, to which Toulouse belongs. At 48,600 euros per capita, Vienna, the capital of Austria, is only slightly ahead of Bremen. And the gross value added of the top-ranking Italian province of South Tyrol is more than 5000 euros below that of Bremen.

In addition to traditional trade, industry also contributes to this economic power. Bremen is the seventh largest industrial location in Germany. The space industry forms a very large and important cluster: at Airbus Bremen, for example, the service module for the Orion spacecraft is being built for Nasa, the Ariane Group is assembling the upper stage of the European launchers Ariane 5 and 6 and OHB is engineering satellites including ones for the European Galileo navigation system, for example. I am very confident that the new mayor, Andreas Bovenschulte, and the new business senator, Kristina Vogt, will also be only too happy to promote these and many of Bremen’s other strengths to the outside world. This will not only strengthen Bremen’s self-confidence but also support its economy as all companies are urgently seeking skilled employees and are also dependent on young talent. The more positive the image that Bremen conveys outside our beautiful city, the more likely it will be that the best minds will find their way to us.


Personal details:

Born in 1962, Marco Fuchs studied law in Berlin, Hamburg and New York. He worked as an attorney in New York and Frankfurt am Main from 1992 to 1995. In 1995, he joined OHB, the company that his parents had built up. He has been Chief Executive Officer of OHB SE since 2000 and of OHB System AG since 2011. Marco Fuchs is married and has two children.