In 2019 I had the opportunity to visit the City of Graz in Austria for the first time, back then for my travel blog, GreenCityTrips.com. This was right after a week-long visit of nearby Slovenia. And Graz was an instant hit. I especially liked the city’s size – big enough to feel open and cosmopolitan, small enough to feel comfortably walkable. But what exactly makes Graz stand out as a business location?
Andrea Keimel, Head of the Department of Economic and Tourism Development of Graz, shares her views. The interview is part of our series of location features aimed at presenting cities and regions as potential places to live and do business in – and to introduce you to the person in charge. If you’d like to introduce your location, please contact us.
Andrea, Graz is an important economic hub in Austria. What makes it so attractive as a location to visit, but also to invest and work?
Graz is a city with many faces: a university city, City of Design, research centre and cultural capital at the same time. Around 60,000 students meet world market leaders, a lively start-up landscape mixes with the bustling creative scene and UNESCO World Heritage Sites meet renowned research institutes. This diversity makes Graz unique as a business location.
As Head of Economic and Tourism Development at Graz City administration – in your view, what does Graz stand for today?
Graz stands for the above-described mix of the dynamic university environment and renowned industry leaders. Add to this a pinch of design, culture and quality of life – and voilá, that is our city.
How does your organization help the city to attract investors and talent?
We see ourselves as an interface between the business community and public administration. One focus is on networking with the individual players, which also benefits potential investors and talent. One example: The “Science Fit” initiative links young researchers with local business leaders and initiates joint projects. A win-win situation for business, science and students.
Which would you consider the main challenge when promoting Graz to potential investors or skilled workers?
Although Graz is the second-largest city in Austria, with over 300,000 inhabitants it is still “familiar” – compared to other major European cities. This – as you pointed out in your intro – can be seen as an advantage, especially with regard to the quality of life, but also brings along corresponding challenges, for instance concerning infrastructure.
Which are some of the most recent developments in the Graz city region, which make it stand out from competing cities or business areas in Europe?
What makes the city of Graz generally unique is the high quality of life. Although we are one of the fastest-growing regions in Europe, more than 90% of the population of Graz like to live in their neighbourhood. The development of a new city district according to the criteria of a ” Smart City” and the award of the “Unesco City of Design” make us proud of Graz.
Which trends do you observe currently that are likely to impact the ability of city regions in Europe to attract talent or investors?
Everything related to the topic of “sustainable business” is playing an increasingly important role. Smart City will also be an issue: energy-efficient urban planning and networked services for residents.
Apart from the difficulties which we are experiencing due to the coronavirus pandemic, in terms of being able to attract talent and investors: has the current situation also benefited your city in some ways – for example in that it forced innovative solutions, or produced new (digital..) business opportunities?
Numerous regionally thinking companies and also the domestic agriculture sector have gained a new significance in the last months. We can sense that awareness of local products and produce is increasing and that companies that have internalized this approach are benefiting from it.
Our founders and entrepreneurs in the areas of information, communication, gaming and software show through their mindset how even difficult times can be overcome with new ideas and courage.
New Work and Leadership are also topics that are currently gaining even more priority for the economy of Graz.
How do you practically support Graz a business location?
Graz-based companies and start-ups, in particular, have access to numerous contact and consulting points through us, that provide expert support. We know that in order to gain a location advantage in a globalized world, business developers need a communication strategy that takes into account current trends in location marketing, such as digitalization, mobility and transparency. Specifically, we offer:
- Location information: figures, data & facts. For instance, how many university graduates remain in the region in relation to the unemployment rate. We also produce location videos, introducing potential investors to our city and region.
- Platforms and consulting possibilities, so that start-ups and those who want to become one, learn about new financing possibilities. A stand-alone platform for interested investors might be something for us to look into.
- Networking events, online and offline.
- Our location strategy is based on digital channels: social media. An image database and a blog are also planned.
We recently published a white paper on the climate emergency and the need for place branders to account for climate mitigation and resilience in economic development and place positioning strategies. To your mind, how important is a location’s climate resilience nowadays, for its ability to attract investors and talent?
I believe that the importance of the issues of regionality and sustainability is constantly increasing. As the City of Graz, we set specific priorities with subsidies and offers to stimulate the economy in these areas and to create incentives. The Graz Climate Protection Advisory Board, an independent committee of experts, advises the city on climate protection measures. For funding with relevance to climate protection, there is the possibility of obtaining co-financing from the climate protection fund.
Foto credit ©Foto_Joergler
Our interview with Andrea Keimel on Graz as a business location is part of our series of (paid) portraits and interviews aimed at introducing cities and regions as potential places to live and invest in. If you’d like to introduce your location, please contact us.
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