Aargau holds its own among the heavyweights
Canton Aargau in northern Switzerland lies in the shadow of its better-known neighbours: Zurich, Basel, Bern and Lucerne.
But it has long been a thriving centre for industry and business, and has attracted more than 40 new companies this year alone.
Walter Cadosch of Aargau Services, the economic promotion office, told swissinfo that the canton's location actually works to its advantage. "We depend on the economic growth of the big cities, but we also have advantages from the infrastructure of these cities like the airports of Basel and Zurich."
Aargau has long been a magnet for business and industry. "We had business centres in the Middle Ages such as Lenzburg," said Cadosch. "And by the 19th century such well known companies as ABB had started up in Baden.
"At that time the industrial landscape of Aargau was dominated by the textile and electricity industries, which grew up along the many rivers that run through the canton."
The canton has done well in attracting companies to its major business centres of Baden, Olten and Aarau. In Baden alone major information technology groups such as Oracle and Brother have set up home alongside the multinational technology giant and long-term resident, ABB.
Another high-tech group to have moved to the canton in recent years is the French-United States software company, Business Objects. Its communications manager, Kirsten Walser, said location had been the deciding factor in moving to Baden.
"Baden is a nice town and it's very cheap, too. It's also very central: you're very quickly in Basel, Zug, Lucerne or at Zurich airport."
Walser went on to explain that this central location is why so many IT companies are based around Baden. "It is a little silicon valley," added Walser.
Certainly the cost of office space and wages are lower than in the bigger cities. The average income per inhabitant is SFr48,000 - that's around the national average but well below the levels in Zurich and Basel.
Aargau Services is working hard to encourage more firms to move to the region. Until 1980 most workers in the canton were employed in the industrial sector, but Walter Cadosch estimates that only around 100,000 employees remain in manufacturing, with 160,000 people now employed in the service sector.
"We're interested in bringing in companies in the IT, optical technology and machinery sectors," said Cadosch.
The canton's economic promotion office offers a variety of services to attract businesses, including tax breaks and assistance in cutting through bureaucracy.
Certainly canton Aargau, with its 550,000 residents, is among the most successful in Switzerland at bringing in new business.
by Tom O'Brien
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