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“I Do Not Fear for Bremen”

An important visitor to the Faculty of Economics in two senses: the guest, Carsten Sieling, was not only in attendance as the Mayor of Bremen but also as an alumnus of the University of Bremen. The podium discussion focused on the future of local economic policy.

Following visits from Christian Lindner and Carsten Meyer-Heder, the faculty was pleased to welcome a third renowned guest from politics in such a short space of time: Carsten Sieling. “Today, I am proud in two ways”, the dean of the faculty, Professor Jochen Zimmermann, stated in his welcome speech. “With you, Dr. Sieling, we not only have a Mayor of Bremen but also an economist and active alumnus of the University of Bremen as a guest with us.”

“Addressed Structural Policy and Structural Change within my PhD”

It was clear to see that Carsten Sieling was pleased by the friendly welcome in the well-filled room and went straight to the point with his keynote speech: “At the end of the 90s, I addressed structural policy and structural change within my PhD here at the University of Bremen. It is exactly this structural change that has been present in Bremen for more than 30 years. However, I do not fear for Bremen.” Sieling continued to explain that this is due to the circumstance that at the beginning of the 80s the SPD made good and correct decisions, which have now paid off. Despite the shipbuilding crisis, Bremen has remained a strong industrial location, is in a competitive position, for example in the field of space travel, and was the fastest-growing state in the republic in 2017, he reported. ”This is how it should remain”, declared the mayor. “We still want to be the motor of the Northwest.”

“The Advantages of Second Movers”

During the podium discussion, which was moderated by Dean Jochen Zimmermann, Sieling answered questions from Professor Jutta Günther, chair of the research group Innovation and Structural Economics, and Professor Jörg Freiling, head of the chair for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (LEMEX) at the University of Bremen.  Initially, the focus was placed on the term “second movers”. “The advantages of being a second mover can currently be seen in the town center”, explained the mayor. “Due to the fact that we waited, unlike other cities, we have been spared the big shopping mall in Bremen city center, which is simply no longer modern. Instead of this we have a whole bundle of Bremen, national and international investors, such as Jacobs, Zech, Schapira and Denkmalneu-Gruppe, who are backing multipurpose usage – living, restaurant trade and services.”

“More Financial Leeway”

Jörg Freiling praised the current dynamics of the Bremen start-up scene but also wanted to know from the mayor how he will enable an influx of young professionals so that Bremen entrepreneurs can expand in terms of staff. Sieling is apparently putting his faith in the hands of the university and higher education institutes (HEIs): “We want to continue to improve the cooperation of the university and the HEIS with foreign HEIs to bring young and motivated people to Bremen.” Jutta Günther asked Sieling what could be done for small and medium-sized companies away from the startup scene. In answer, the mayor named the additional millions, which will come through the restructuring of the federal and state finances and will enable more financial leeway. “Good traffic routes are important for Bremen companies. We want to invest in this area. We are also placing a focus on education. We do not only want to invest more money into the restoration of buildings and the equipment, for example in schools, but also want to bring handicraft companies and schools even closer together through district-based programs.”

“And what about Climate Protection?”

Finally, the podium welcomed questions from students. It became clear how one topic is particularly present in the lives of young people at the moment: “Climate protection has unfortunately not been mentioned in the debate so far”, noted a student and pointed out that Bremen has clearly not reached the CO2-emissions savings target to date. The mayor admitted that this is a deficit but one that he intends to rectify. “Our economy has grown unusually quickly, which has had a negative impact on the savings targets. It is in the area of traffic that I believe there to be a chance to take countermeasures. This is why, above all, we want to strengthen the local public transport in Bremen.”

“What Drives You?”

Jutta Günther finally asked the question of all questions: “What drives you? What motivates you to do the job of the mayor? Carsten Sieling answered: “I love the spectrum of this job, which is only rarely to be found. In the mornings I may deal with a problem regarding a curb somewhere in Bremen, for example, and then at midday I could be sitting on a train on my way to Berlin to represent the interests of Bremen at the Federal Chancellery.”

Bremer Bürgermeister und Alumnus der Universität: Carsten Sieling
The Mayor of Bremen and alumnus of the University of Bremen: Carsten Sieling