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Improved transport boosts Basel business appeal

Local tram and bus routes were seen to raise the business potential of cities like Basel swiss-image

Train timetables and bus routes are as important as another humdrum topic - taxes - as firms seek the best place to set up shop in Switzerland, a report concludes.

The latest Credit Suisse business attractiveness survey unsurprisingly places Zug and Zurich at the pinnacle. But Basel has dashed up the rankings thanks to the “business potential” of its tram stops.

The report, published every five years, takes account of a number of factors that attract companies to particular cantons: the taxation of people and enterprises, education levels of the population and the availability of highly skilled staff.

But more emphasis has been placed this time around on accessibility and the ability to quickly reach other places of business interest. For the first time, this includes the value of local bus and tram routes – a factor that favours cities like Basel.

Basel has risen four places up the rankings to position three, behind Zurich and leader Zug, thanks to a reduction to its tax burden in the last five years coupled with an enhanced transport rating. This is due in part to improvements in the national rail timetable and also the new rating of local traffic connections.

Short haul advantage

The short haul travel rating benefited all major cities apart from the Swiss capital of Bern, which is a smaller city noted more as an administrative centre than a business area, according to Credit Suisse head of economic research Martin Neff.

“If you take the tram in Basel and travel for 30 minutes through the city then you are in touch with all the economic potential in that area. If you take a train from Bern to another town in the canton then you do not get as much advantage,” Neff told

Neff tipped improved transport links to improve the fortunes of other regions in future surveys. A spate of tunnel building and road bypass openings is improving access of more remote regions to large cities, demonstrating that business appeal is more than just tax.

Taxes, however, still play a large part in determining which areas attract the most business. The survey reflected the fact that cantons have been moving into overdrive in the last two years to reduce their corporate tax rates as they jostle in a more competitive environment.

Obwalden, which slashed rates in 2007, moved up five places in the table to eighth position while Nidwalden and Schwyz, which had less room for manoeuvring, dropped down the list.

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The rapid tax cutting measures took place during economic boom times and Neff urged cantons not to reverse the trend during the current tough times.

“My message is: don’t stop your efforts to make your region more attractive as a business destination now that we are in a recession,” he told

Like all surveys, the Credit Suisse report only told part of the story. The criteria for ranking cantons did not take into account measurements such as property prices that are more a factor for individuals than companies.

The bank also conducts regular affordability surveys that determine where residents enjoy the most disposable income after tax, rent, mortgages and utility bills have been stripped out.

This report was last published in November and revealed the small canton of Appenzell Inner Rhodes, situated in the east of the country, as being the most affordable place in Switzerland to live. Basel City finished second from bottom in that list.

Matthew Allen,

The 2009 Business Appeal of Cantons report by Credit Suisse ranked Switzerland’s 26 cantons according to their attractiveness for firms.

1: Zug (first place in the last survey conducted in 2004)
2: Zurich (2)
3: Basel City (7)
4: Geneva (4)
5: Nidwalden (3)
6: Aargau (6)
7: Schwyz (5)
8: Obwalden (13)
9: Schaffhausen (12)
10: Thurgau (11)
11: Basel Country (9)
12: Appenzell Outer Rhodes (8)
13: Solothurn (15)
14: Vaud (14)
15: Appenzell Inner Rhodes (10)
16: Lucerne (17)
17: St Gallen (18)
18: Bern (16)
19: Graubünden (22)
20: Fribourg (21)
21: Ticino (19)
22: Glarus (20)
23: Valais (24)
24: Neuchâtel
25: Uri (25)
26: Jura (26)

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR