Giving the city a future

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Bernhard Lorentz
EY Government & Public Sector Leader for Germany, Switzerland and Austria

How can cities that have previously been dominated by heavy industry create the sustainable jobs that will raise living standards across the population?

Some answers lie deep in the heart of the Ruhr Valley, the industrial powerhouse of West Germany’s economic progress in the 1950s and 1960s, and still an important driver of Europe’s economy.

One of the cities in the region is Bottrop, situated near the Rhine-Herne Canal, north of the Ruhr River and east of the Rhine.

Today, Bottrop’s 120,000 inhabitants are represented by the city’s mayor, Bernd Tischler, who was first elected to the office in 2009.

Since then, in response to the decline of the mining industry, he has overseen an ongoing regeneration project that is renewing housing infrastructure, diversifying the city’s economy, attracting jobs and transforming the urban environment.

Brown field to blue sky

“Industry has strongly influenced the townscape, the economic structure of Bottrop and even the self-perception of the people,” says the mayor.

In 2007, Germany’s federal government decided that the subsidies for Germany’s mining sector would end by 2018.

“Since one of the last mines in Germany is in Bottrop, you can imagine this decision had a great impact on the city. One of the most important issues from the start of my period in office was the need to create new jobs and find a new economic perspective for the city by injecting new business,” he says.

This involved joining up environmental, economic and social ideas into a coherent plan to redevelop land previously used for mining, and turn it into new business areas and living spaces.

His plans received a huge boost in 2010 when Bottrop fought off competition from 15 other cities in the region to become the Innovation City of Ruhr.

The Innovation City initiative, involving an affiliation of 70 leading companies in the region, sought to transform the urban environment of part of the selected industrial city, reduce CO2 emissions by half in a decade, and provide a template for regeneration that could be used for other cities that are dealing with the economic, environmental and social implications of deindustrialization.

A progress report was released last year, at the half-way point of the project. It found that CO2 emissions had reduced by 38%. Bernd is confident that the 50% target will be reached by the end of the decade.

Toward 2020

Enthusing citizens by painting a picture of a better future, organizing effective cooperation between public and private sectors, and building alliances across the tiers of government have been some of the most important factors.

The mayor has been re-elected and his mandate now runs to 2020, the same year that the Innovation City project comes to a close. By then, Mayor Tischler and Bottrop will be completing their blueprint of how to transform a post-industrial city.

He hopes others will be inspired by Bottrop’s story. “I’m convinced that it’s a worldwide theme for cities to become more energy efficient, more livable, and to create more jobs.”


For more information please contact Bill Banks

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This article is excerpted from the November 2016 edition of Citizen Today. See also these featured articles: