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“There must be a jolt through Krefeld”.

Interview with Jürgen Steinmetz
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“There must be a jolt through Krefeld”

We spoke to the IHK general manager about the energy crisis, the situation on the training market and the question of where the city of Krefeld stands. He says: The city is not really making progress. The question of why is crucial.

When we last talked, the world was different.

Steinmetz You could say so. There is a whole bundle of challenges: Corona, a shortage of skilled workers, supply chain problems and now the energy crisis in the wake of the Ukraine war. What is currently keeping us very busy is a possible gas shortage; Krefeld and the entire region are particularly affected because very energy- and gas-intensive companies are based here; I’m thinking of the steel and chemical industries and mechanical engineering. The sword of Damocles of the gas shutdown hovers over everyone if there really is a gas shortage. This is what we are dealing with in all crisis management teams in the region.

Can you do something or do you have to wait and see the situation like a judgment from God?

Steinmetz Of course you can do something. You can and should prepare. We will sit down with companies, SWK and the city and discuss how to arm yourself. We would also like to appeal to companies and consumers to save energy in general and gas in particular as much as possible. According to an EU decision, the countries must save 15 percent in energy. Our goal is for the companies to position themselves in such a way that the decoupling of individual companies from the gas supply can be avoided. I can’t imagine what that would mean for companies and employees.

There are experts who write to the industry that they could save significantly more. In your opinion, is there still a lot of leeway?

Steinmetz For years, companies have been trying to use energy as efficiently as possible in their own interest from a cost perspective. In the spring of 2022, industrial companies saved another ten percent in energy. This shows that there is still potential. In an acute shortage, companies would also have to check whether they can adapt their processes and production lines; perhaps one or the other branch of production can be suspended or reduced in favor of others. Or the production days could possibly be reduced or shifts organized differently. I do think that citizens and companies still have opportunities to reduce electricity and gas. It won’t be painless, but it will be. The important thing is that we all have to ask ourselves what we can do.

One wonders why it is so difficult to replace Russian gas. Isn’t there enough gas on the world market?

Steinmetz The government is on the right track in attracting new suppliers. The question is how quickly you can establish business relationships and organize deliveries. I also think it’s right to discuss whether nuclear power plants can be allowed to run a little longer and whether the timetable for coal-fired power generation can be deviated from. We have to get through next winter and the one after that. There must be no bans on thinking.

Steinmetz We know how controversial fracking is, and it wouldn’t help us in the short term over the next two winters.

What about training? Companies are reporting massive problems finding trainees.

Steinmetz It is gratifying that we will again have an increase of 0.7 percent in the number of trainees in the entire chamber district in 2021/2021. There is a small increase from year to year after the Corona slump, but unfortunately this upward trend is not supported in Krefeld, on the contrary: In Krefeld we have a minus of 1.8 percent among trainees. This is a pity. There are 1,200 vacancies within a radius of 20 kilometers.

Why is that, where are the young people, what are they doing?

Steinmetz They simply do not arrive in the companies. I can only appeal: get in touch; there are many possibilities and a wide range in all possible professions. The spectrum is very broad.

How do you perceive the development of Krefeld? As for downtown?

Steinmetz My impression is that things are not really progressing and I don’t know why. In any case, it’s not due to the goals shared by everyone, nor is it due to the commitment of individual people, but if you look at the situation as a whole, then you have to say: everything takes far too much time.

Steinmetz When it came to administration that was friendly to small and medium-sized businesses, after years of wrangling, the decision was made: We’ll do it. I don’t see any implementation at the moment. They regularly report on issues and potentials when it comes to downtown and retail, but you don’t really get the feeling that we’re making significant progress. With the surf park project, we have had a single large investment plan for Krefeld for a long time, and here too one gets the impression that things are not progressing quickly. The disclosure took place in the spring. According to the city, it will take another year before the permit can be granted. I don’t really want to take up the topic of the view of the Rhine. We have to get one or the other good and visible result in order to spread a positive mood again. As part of our regional forum in autumn, we will take up the topic of downtown and retail. But none of that helps if things are not implemented and made successful. A jolt must go through Krefeld.

How is the IHK positioned?

Steinmetz After the general assembly election in 2021 this year, we developed a new mission statement under the heading “Economy, Homeland, Future” in a good, committed participatory process. It contains our values ​​and goals. I think we’ve come a long way in terms of a hands-on IHK. We organize regional forums and have created new networks to engage and engage even more members. In addition, we have launched an online participation portal to give our member companies the opportunity to comment on our positions and opinions and thus help shape them. Our members welcome these new forms of participation and are happy to accept them.