Cologne, Duesseldorf and the Ruhr Area
Cologne and Düsseldorf: heavyweights in the west
The region is considered one of the most important business locations in Germany. It also owes this to its geographical location. With the connection to the Rhine as an international waterway, the convenient location at motorway and railway junctions, two large airports and trade fair locations, as well as the proximity to the Ruhr area, to the ports of the Netherlands and Belgium, the region was able to achieve a top economic position.
Cologne: business location with ancient roots
Already in Roman times, Cologne developed into an ancient economic metropolis and was the largest trading city of the then German Empire from the 11th century at the latest. This lasted until around the 16th century, when Cologne lost its importance to other German cities such as Frankfurt, Nuremberg or Leipzig. In the 19th century, those responsible in Cologne quickly recognized the importance of the new means of transport, the railway. With the support of the local banks and dealer families, investments were made at an early stage and in a future-oriented manner. Thus, by 1859, Cologne had developed into a major railway junction in the west.
Although Cologne still has a large retail sector, the economic structure has become very diversified after the Second World War at the latest. The automotive industry, the finance and insurance industry, the chemical industry, the food industry, media companies and the publishing industry are now traditionally strong.
The largest employers in the city of Cologne are Ford-Werke, Stadtwerke Köln and the Rewe Group. The other large companies based in Cologne illustrate the broad-based economic structure. In addition to insurance companies (Axa, Gothaer, Talanx, Generali), energy suppliers (RWE Power, Rheinenergie), chemical companies (Lanxess, Ineos Cologne) and media companies (WDR, RTL Group) should also be mentioned here.
Chemical cluster Cologne – Leverkusen – Dusseldorf
The chemical industry was and is an important driver of the economy in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. In Cologne and the surrounding area, it largely developed in the 19th century. With the reconstruction of the German economy after the Second World War, this industrial sector again grew strongly. The sales of the chemical industry achieved in the IHK district of Cologne correspond to more than 25% of the total sales of the chemical industry in North Rhine-Westphalia and 8% of the total German chemical sales. Notable indicators can also be found outside the city. The largest oil refinery in Germany, operated by Shell, is located in Wesseling with the Energy and Chemicals Park Rheinland. To secure the site, investments have been made in the production of non-fossil energy sources in recent years, and another record has been set: in 2021, what is currently the largest hydrogen electrolyser in Europe went into operation here.
Other locations of the chemical industry can be found in the region between Cologne and Düsseldorf. Most of these have now been converted into chemical parks. In addition to the Chemparks in Leverkusen and Dormagen, these are the Knapsack Chemical Park, the Cologne-Merkenich Chemical Park and the Evonik site in Lülsdorf.
Not to be forgotten is Bayer AG, based in Leverkusen, which has also had its largest production site here since 1912. It is a globally active, listed chemical and pharmaceutical group with almost 100,000 employees. Research, development and production take place in the areas of pharmaceuticals, consumer health and crop science.
Düsseldorf: administrative center with large companies
The chemical industry also plays an important role in Düsseldorf, the state capital of North Rhine-Westphalia. Henkel AG, a company that manufactures detergents and cleaning agents, cosmetics and body care products as well as adhesives, sealants and products for surface technology, is active worldwide and listed in the DAX.
Other branches of industry are also strongly represented in Düsseldorf. Rheinmetall AG, the largest purely German armaments group, has its headquarters in the state capital, as does the Metro Group, one of the largest trading groups in the world.
In addition, the finance and insurance industry is strongly represented in Düsseldorf. Next to Frankfurt am Main, Munich and Stuttgart, Düsseldorf ranks fourth among the largest financial centers in Germany. Düsseldorf is also the seat of some large insurance companies such as the ERGO insurance group or the ARAG group.
Transport and logistics
in Cologne and Düsseldorf
Cologne and Düsseldorf have a lot in common. Both cities have large commercial airports, which rank 4th (Düsseldorf) and 6th (Cologne/Bonn) of the largest German airports in terms of passenger volume. Both cities are also important trade fair locations.
Both cities and their surroundings are also excellently integrated into the infrastructure of all modes of transport, which makes them attractive locations for transport and logistics companies. In addition to the two airports mentioned, the connections to the motorways and the German waterway network should be emphasized. The Neuss-Düsseldorf ports are the third largest inland ports in Germany.
In Cologne z. B. 18 of the 20 top-selling German logistics companies are represented either with a branch or a distribution center, including leading international providers such as Deutsche Post DHL, DB Schenker and Dachser. Internationally significant logistics companies such as HGK Integrated Logistics Group, Emons Spedition and Curt Richter have their headquarters in Cologne.
When it comes to intermodal transport, Cologne occupies a leading position in the Federal Republic. As a freight transport center, the Köln Eifeltor transhipment station is Germany’s busiest freight station. With Cologne/Bonn Airport, Germany’s second-largest cargo airport, the region has an interface to global trading and production locations.
Coal and steel once dominated the Ruhr area and were an important part of the German economy for more than a century. Even after the structural change that started in the 1960s and changed the Ruhr area significantly, it still remains an important economic area. Many large German companies have their headquarters or large production sites in the Ruhr area, as well as mining and chemical companies such as RAG Aktiengesellschaft, Evonik Industries, ThyssenKrupp (all in Essen) or BP Europa SE (Bochum). -In addition to the industrial companies, commercial and service companies have now been added, which illustrates the structural change. The service sector is represented in the Ruhr area with companies such as energy and water suppliers such as Amprion (Dortmund), RWE and E.ON Ruhrgas (both Essen). Large insurance companies such as Signal-Iduna and Continentale Krankenversicherung have their headquarters in Dortmund. Retail groups such as the Aldi Group (Essen), Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof (Essen) and Deichmann are based in Essen
Due to its historically good infrastructural connections, the Ruhr area is one of the most important logistics locations in Germany and Europe. Numerous companies in the logistics sector such as Rhenus (Holzwickede) or Imperial Logistics (Duisburg) have either their headquarters here or central logistics and distribution centers with a European reach (IKEA, Amazon or Decathlon).
Traditional modes of transport:water and rail
In terms of rail freight transport, the Ruhr area is still the largest railway complex in Europe with several marshalling yards in Hagen, Hamm, Oberhausen due to its historical large-scale development; Swords and Wanne-Eickel.
In addition, as early as the 19th century, there were rivers that were developed for inland shipping. Artificial waterways such as the Rhine-Herne Canal, Wesel-Datteln Canal, Datteln-Hamm Canal and Dortmund-Ems Canal were added, forming the largest European hub for inland shipping. The total handling on the canals of the Ruhr area is about 25 million tons.
Duisburg is home to both the largest inland port and the largest canal port in Europe. The Port of Duisburg is regarded as a traffic hub for German inland shipping. It has a total annual turnover of around 96 million tons.