January 2021
Photos: Ralf A. Niggemann
Stadt Wetzlar

Rainer Dietrich

10 years ago, the Wetzlar Network was founded under the umbrella of the city of Wetzlar and the Office for Economic Development. Rainer Dietrich has accompanied the Network from the beginning.

W3+: Mr. Dietrich, let’s say you would have to convince someone of the business location Wetzlar – what would be the first thing that came to your mind?

Rainer Dietrich: The names Ernst Leitz, Carl Kellner and Moritz Hensoldt which are for the local industry what Goethe is for Wetzlar as the city of culture. More than 150 years ago, they laid the foundation of Wetzlar’s rise to “City of Optics”. And to the present day, the industrial region has stood for the greatest technological competence “made in Germany”. By now, this does not only hold true for the optics industry but also for the key technologies, as there are electronics and photonics, sensor systems and precision mechanics. Corporate groups like Leica Camera, Leica Microsystems, Carl Zeiss Sports Optics, Hexagon Metrology, Oculus, Satisloh, or Pfeiffer Vacuum count as the most important employers of the region. Many small and medium-sized companies rank among the market leaders in their specific field, most of them operate worldwide. In turn, the four regional universities situated in Gießen, Marburg, Siegen, and Friedberg do an important job in educating and training skilled junior professionals. More and more new enterprises have discovered the assets of the city and the region as a business location. And the reasons for this are manifold.

W3+: The intention behind the foundation of the Wetzlar Network was to bolster combining the singular competences in these fields. Has this been accomplished?

Rainer Dietrich: The purpose of founding the Wetzlar Network for the sectors optics, electronics, and mechanics was to strengthen the regional economic area and to actively foster its development. And in this respect, the activities of the Network have indeed had a very positive impact. The Wetzlar Network is facilitator, communicator and multiplicator – to the outside and inside. It provides the cooperative basis for a successful collaboration between the companies in the region. Especially cooperation with the University of Applied Sciences for Central Hessen (THM) makes it possible to impart the particular expertise required in the industrial region with practical orientation. Furthermore, there are many initiatives which contribute to harnessing the application of the know-how and the implementation of the potential for innovation in a more specific way through networking.

W3+: Networks come and go. After 10 years, the Wetzlar Network ranks among the most successful industrial clusters in Hesse. Do you have an explanation for this?

Rainer Dietrich: A major part of the Network’s success is due to Ralf Niggemann who did not only establish the Wetzlar Network as its executive manager but who has also accompanied and extended the networking activities most intensively during the past 10 years. He lives for the Network in the best sense. In addition to that, great care has been taken from the startup phase to have the financial footing of the Network secured by membership fees in combination with monetary support from the city of Wetzlar to provide financial security even after the ERDF funding for the initial years. Aside from the support from the city of Wetzlar under the direction of its Office for Economic Development, another factor of success is the cooperation with the German federal state Hesse through Hessen Trade & Invest, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Lahn-Dill and the Regional Management Association Central Hesse as well as with industrial enterprises and universities from the region.

W3+: The anniversary year 2020 has been severly overshadowed by the corona crisis which has also afflicted many companies. How do you assess the current situation?

Rainer Dietrich: In the last months, we went through a lot and together with the companies, we had to face new challenges every day. Of course, there were losses in sales which have also put a financial burden on the companies, for sure. Along the way, however, it has also become clear that the companies incorporated in the Wetzlar Network see any crisis as a challenge which brings forth new innovative solutions and ideas again and again.

W3+: Do you personally think that the city and the region will nevertheless remain a strong and attractive economic site?

Rainer Dietrich: Yes, absolutely. Every crisis is an exceptional situation. But it also opens up new perspectives to reflect and position oneself anew, to recognize opportunities and to seize them. I am absolutely convinced that the companies at the location Wetzlar are positioned in such a way that they will come out of this situation strengthened and that they will continue to positively develop the location together with the Office for Economic Development of the City of Wetzlar.

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