City Focus: Cologne

- Leadership - Jun 10, 2019

Located in Germany’s populous North Rhine-Westphalia region, Cologne’s economy relies on tourism, manufacturing, and logistics.

As a 2,000-year-old city, Cologne ranks as the fourth most populated city in Germany, and is widely recognised for its famed Cologne Cathedral, the seat of the Catholic Archbishop of Cologne. The city is also home to numerous universities, including the prestigious University of Cologne as well as the country’s largest applied sciences school — the Technical University of Cologne. Despite being one of the most bombed cities during World War II, post-war initiatives have positioned it as a vital commercial hub.

The city has earned a reputation as a high-profile tourism destination. Unique landmarks such as its 12 Romanesque churches and Medieval architecture are peppered against modern skyscrapers. This architecturally-rich environment has prompted industries to host upwards of 50 trade fairs and 2,000 conventions annually.

Cologne is strategically situated at the very centre of Europe in Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia region. This area hosts upwards of one-third of Germany’s largest 100 companies, and the city’s economic base remains as diverse as its population. Prominent corporations in sectors including auto manufacturing, telecommunications, technology, insurance, tourism, and finance among many others are part of a prosperous business landscape.

Corporations that rely on logistics call Cologne home due to transportation excellence. The city boasts Germany’s second largest inland harbour, and a modernised rail system’s primary station. Cologne stands as a critically important rail hub. A wealth of road and bridge infrastructure are only outdone by the city’s Cologne-Bonn Airport. On the commercial side, the airport is recognised as Germany’s second largest freight hub. In terms of passenger flight, its capacity has grown almost exponentially. Business, commercial and personal transportation are keys to this city’s economic health and well-being.

Top Industries in Cologne

Although Cologne’s most notable industry may be automobile manufacturing, the city has embraced diverse markets that sometimes get overlooked such as the craft manufacturing industry accounts for upwards of $16.53bn in the greater Cologne-Bonn area. The industry also employs more than 185,000 people in 151 different occupations.

Chemical and pharmaceutical corporations have also taken full advantage of Cologne’s logistical and transportation superiority. A reported 48 outfits with more than 23,000 employees have facilities that conduct work from research and development to manufacturing and distribution. Joint initiatives such as ChemCologne have laid the groundwork for improved economic growth in the sector.  

The area’s well-regarded higher learning institutions has garnered interest from the biotech and life sciences professionals. Buttressed by academic and laboratory resources, more than 20 companies in the metro area and 40 in the region have helped create a robust industry with strong ties to the nearby “Cologne chemical industry belt.” The chemical sector enjoys healthy growth of more than 150 companies, seven Chemparks and approximately 70,000 employees.

In the midst of a diversified economy, the automotive industry still ranks as Cologne’s leader. Since Ford Motor Company built a manufacturing facility in 1929, Cologne emerged as an internationally-recognised automotive beacon. Today, Cologne also hosts the headquarters of global brands such as Toyota, Volvo, Mazda, and seemingly endless auto-supply outfits.

Prominent Businesses in Cologne

It’s easy to understand the business attraction to Cologne. Logistics, transportation agility, and strong development and growth across sectors promise an increased likelihood that opening shop or investing could prove fruitful. These are among three of the prominent companies headquartered in Cologne to know:

Ford Europe

The automotive giant remains Cologne’s single largest employer. Its headquarters oversee 10 manufacturing complexes across seven countries totalling upwards of 69,000 employees. The Ford-Werke GmbH, Ford Europe’s subsidiary, maintains a pair of car-making plants in the greater Cologne area. The organisation reportedly employs upwards of 28,000 people in plants that produce SUVs, cars and light commercial vehicles that are overwhelmingly exported.    

Deutz AG

Founded in 1864, this mechanical engineering organisation employs more than 4,000 people in the Cologne area and has posted growth revenue exceeding $1.6bn as well as profits of more than $136mn. Maximizing the transportation and logistical advantages of being located in Cologne, Deutz AG manufactures and exports diesel engines and components for the agricultural sector, as well as automobiles and construction equipment among others. In recent years, the outfit acquired Torqeedo in an effort to develop next-generation electric and hybrid marine drives.

Lanxess

Founded as recently as 2004, Lanxess employs upwards of 19,000 people in the greater Cologne area. The corporation has emerged as a specialty chemical leader in rubbers and plastics among other products. The chemical sector outfit posted revenue exceeding $11.5bn and earned profits topping $180mn. In 2016, CEO Matthias Zachert increased its focus to developing lubricant and fire-retardant additives. The chemical industry continues to enjoy determined growth in Cologne.

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