Thurgau looks north for new investment

Canton Thurgau is aiming to attract high tech firms Keystone Archive

Thurgau is becoming ever more attractive for businesses, particularly high-tech firms.

This content was published on December 30, 2001 - 10:44

Thurgau, a medium-sized canton in the north-east of the country, is nicknamed "Cider-India" - a reference to its unspoilt countryside and the historic predominance of agriculture in the region's economy.

Agriculture and forestry, however, currently cover just 10 per cent of Thurgau's economic activity, while industry accounts for 40 per cent and services 50 per cent.

The canton's economic development agency says it welcomes between 80 and 100 new businesses to Thurgau every year. The agency welcomes all companies, but it's particularly keen to attract high-tech firms in biology, medicine and nano-technology.

Thurgau is increasingly looking north for new investors. The agency sells the canton at investment seminars and trade fairs such as Cebit in Basel and the Industry Trade fair in Hannover.

"Germany is an economically strong partner and 40 per cent of our exports go there," explains Josef Birchmeier, an economist with the development agency. "For German businessmen, Switzerland is a preferred country to settle in because productivity is higher here and taxes are lower."

Costs for start-up companies are lower than in Germany, and Birchmeier says financial incentives in Thurgau compare well to other cantons.

"The details of the Swiss tax system are complex but compared to the other 25 cantons, Thurgau is in fifth place," he told swissinfo. "If jobs are created then tax relief can be negotiated over a 10 year period and capital-intensive projects are supported by loan guarantees."

But financial incentives alone are not enough to attract new investors to a region. The canton ensures that bureaucracy is kept to a minimum and decisions are taken quickly.

Thurgau also benefits from its location. "We are just 30 minutes away from (Zurich) Kloten Airport and there is a dense network of roads and railways," says Birchmeier. "We have many land reserves and, although there is no university here, there are all types of educational establishments within a radius of 30 to 40 kilometres."

The importance of the canton's proximity to Germany cannot be overestimated.

Andreas von Beringe, chief executive officer of Simulation Analysis and Forecasting company, which has been based in Tägerwilen for the past two years, says: "We have a daughter company in the German town of Konstanz so we have easy access to Germany and you have to be present in that market to be a European player."

Beringe says the financial incentives of moving to Switzerland played a big part in the decision of the company, which makes software for statistical forecasting systems to optimise the supply chain.

But he adds that quality of life issues are just as important. "Families find it easy to settle here. They can maintain a relationship with Germany and even send their children to German schools if they wish."

Thurgau is one of Switzerland's best-kept economic secrets. But the canton's economic development agency is working hard to change that and ensure that companies which don't need to settle in central Zurich have a viable and attractive alternative.

by Michael Hollingdale

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