750 MILLION EURO SHOWCASE THAT'S A REAL GLASS ACT

 

By WILLIAM TELFORD, Business Editor

 WHEN it was decided a trade fair and exhibition centre would boost Leipzig’s post-Communist era economy an enormous 750million euro complex was planned, designed and built – within five years.Today, the gigantic Leipziger Messe is a key economic driver, pulling in 10,000 business exhibitors and 1.3million visitors from across Germany and abroad each year.

The venue has five large halls, holding a combined 55,000 people.

The adjoining 4,300-capacity Congress Centre Leipzig conference centre, forms part of the complex too, all the six halls linked via a 243m long glass entrance hall, itself capable of holding 4,500 people.

The entire venue stages 40 trade shows each year, plus 100 conventions, sports and entertainment events.

And its bosses stress that, as a limited company, the venue must generate profit.

That means it can’t just rely on attracting events – it must create its own too.

Among the most famous are Leipzig’s huge motor show and its book festival, the second largest in Europe’s premier literary market, and regularly attracting 235,000 people.

In addition, a packed annual itinerary includes boat shows, comic conventions, transport forums, business shows and much more.

And the Leipziger Messe company itself, owned by the city of Leipzig and state of Saxony, employs 400 people.

“A study shows our activities also create 4,000 jobs in the area,” said Ronald Kotteritzsch, director of marketing and sales at Congress Centre Leipzig. “And it puts 280million euros into the economy.

“We own the majority of our shows, they are our property, we developed them.

Martin Buhl-Wagner, chief executive of Leipziger Messe, said: “In Germany, the owner of the facility and the shows is the same, in the UK they are not.”

He said by having one entity controlling both it means twice the income.

“We contact people and bring them to Leipzig,” he added. “It’s how many people come to visit the city for the first time.”

The Leipziger Messe trade show company can trace its origins back 850 years, the city being a historic centre for trade, placed as it is in the centre of Europe.

The current, impressive, complex was opened in 1996, situated just outside the city but close to Leipzig-Halle Airport and the motorway.

It was built after reunification when East Germany needed an economic shot in the arm, its inefficient Soviet Bloc era industries being outmoded and inefficient.

The city and state authorities made the decision to build the complex, tapping into central government funds but also selling off publicly-owned buildings in the city to raise cash.

The 1.3million Deutsche mark cost equated to 750million euros. Today it would cost more than a billion euros to build.

“It was a political decision, the city made it,” said Mr Buhl-Wagner. “Leipzig was a historical place for shows and business, so this was important for the people of the region.

“There was just three years of planning and two years of building. We opened with a motor show.”

And Mr Kotteritzsch said: “It was a stimulus for the economy. The federal government realised they needed to create opportunities for the recovery of the economy.”

He added: “The success of Leipzig is it focuses on the strengths of what is already here.”

He said companies work with the city’s chamber of commerce and politicians to look at “what’s good for the area”.

Mr Buhl-Wagner said that just as Leipziger Messe helps stimulate the Leipzig economy, the city, in turn, acts as an economic and promotional generator for its region.

“Businesses look for profit and the effect they have on the region,” he said.

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