Interview with Horst Frank, the mayor of Constance
Let’s pretend that your best friend doesn’t know Constance. How would you describe the city where you were born and where you were twice elected mayor, once in 1996 and again in 2004?
MAYOR HORST FRANK: I would start with the complex, interesting and even captivating history of Constance, and I would point out that the imprints of our history are still visible today in many places. Anyone who wants to discover Constance should begin in the oldest part of town, Niederburg. Archeological excavations in front of the cathedral have recently brought about how our roots and urban culture go back to the times of Roman ãoccupationÒ. Constance is located at the first Italian lake of Germany, so to speak. It certainly has a Southern atmosphere; a charming easy going vibe, especially when the foehn wind allows a clear view of the Alps panorama. At the same time, there is a slight calvinistic undertone. The people of Constance are somtimes nostalgic of the glorious old times. Today, Constance is a modern city with diverse cultural programs, innovative enterprises, a renowned university and great opportunities to enjoy life, to shop, eat and drink or party. Our city is lively and open to change and foreigners. Because of its location close to the Swiss border, we are used to different influences and developments that we welcome in a positive way, and yet we are somehow introverted. Our mix is worth getting to know. Come to visit and see for yourself!
Constance is called ãthe city to the lakeÒ, which is quite self-confident. Is this simply an adverstising slogan or a sincere claim?
MAYOR HORST FRANK:We have reason to be self-confident. The regional development plan adopted by Baden-Wuerttemberg clearly states that Constance is the cultural and economic high-level center in the region. Over the past years, the city has been growing and continues to do so. Many of our institutions, for example the university and the University of Applied Sciences are contributing to our reputation in the Lake Constance region and beyond. The Chambre of Industry and Commerce, the Chambre of Handicraft and the district court are located in Constance. There is a great variety of businesses, especially in services. Leading companies in pharmaceutics, optical science, IT, precision engineering and postal automation have settled in Constance. We also have excellent tourisme enterprises, for example Mainau Island or Sea Life Centre. Of course, some businesses had to reduce work places but at the same time there have been implements of new companies. Handicraft enterprises in Constance are strongly positioned on the market as we can see by the number of restauration and construction work in the old part of town. Our local businesses are doing well and the public services have created new market segments. They are successfully contributing to a balanced budget. The Technology Center Constance is in the top ranking nationwide. Our city’s influence is directed into different directions: to Ravensburg in Upper Swabia, Friedrichshafen across the lake, onto Lšrrach and Villingen-Schwenningen. The special position as center in the region gives us more responsability for the region. The name of Lake Constance is in several languages directly related to our town. The slogan ãConstance - the city to the lakeÒ expresses clearly the significance of the lake for us, not as a limiting force but as a chance to open up the horizon in a mental, cultural and political sense.
When you are speaking of an ãopen horizonÒ, how would you describe Constance as a bordertown to Switzerland?
MAYOR HORST FRANK: Historically speaking, the Swiss borderland and Constance are the same cultural area. Until World War I it wasn’t ununsual for businessmen from Constance to live in Kreuzlingen and vice versa. At the time the borderline wasn’t as present as it is today. Germany and Switzerland are two different economic areas; policies, administration and mentality are different from one another. The border is yet an opportunity because it can be crossed every day. To think of the border as a limitation can inspire us to go further in our thoughts and actions where the future is concerned. I am absolutely convinced that we need to cooperate closer with our Swiss neighbours. We do have a close and uncomplicated partnership with Kreuzlingen, our direct neighbour, which will be intensified through the joint development of both cities. The city of Zurich, which is even closer than Stuttgart, is the next challenging opportunity. The relations between the Canton Thurgau and Zurich aren’t the best because of economic competiton. For us, the relation to Stuttgart is even more difficult because of its centralistic policy. Stuttgart is the regional capital of Baden-Wuerttemberg, but it will be easier for us to achieve economic development towards Zurich. In the meantime, bilateral agreements between Switzerland and the European Union have minimized the effect of the border. Today it is possible to live in Constance and to work in Zurich. The job market has already crossed the border. We haven’t fully realized at this point the potential of our economic area, and the importance of Constance in it.