maandag 9 januari 2017

The entrepreneurial city in the picture in 8 steps

The ambition: in 2020, Sittard-Geleen is known as the most entrepreneurial city in the Province of Limburg. The biggest assets are the historical city center, Sittard’s regional function, the innovative sectors that turn the municipality into a real business town, and the city’s appeal on well-educated young people. To tempt this very group to stay at (or come to) Sittard-Geleen for working and living, playing on these assets is the big challenge.

Car assembly at VDL Nedcar in Sittard-Geleen

The Municipality of Sittard-Geleen is located in the Dutch Province of Limburg, and consists of three urban centers, Sittard (37,000 inhabitants) – where I live, Geleen (32,000 inhabitants) – where I work, and Born (6,000 inhabitants), and a few villages (93,000 inhabitants in total).

1. The assignment
In 2009, the municipality commissioned a survey, which was executed by KcBB from Ulestraten, under former students of secondary education in this municipality. It was found that the deciding factor when choosing a residence is the prospect of a suitable job.

The researchers advised the government to focus on improving the labor market, which should result in more jobs for the higher educated.
To reverse the population decline – the motivation for the survey – the municipality indeed derived from the survey the assignment to improve the local labor market.

Easier said than done.

How do you make Sittard-Geleen attractive? How do you differentiate from other cities that do all they can in the field of city marketing – each with their own slogan?

Moreover, city marketing is expensive, but not very effective, according to the dissertation published by Gert-Jan Hospers, Professor of City Marketing at Radboud University Nijmegen, in the same year (2009).

2. The analysis
To get started with improving the labor market, the municipality asked the agency Merkator from Amsterdam to analyze the situation. Here’s their summary:
  • Sittard has an attractive historical city center
  • Sittard-Geleen is a business town with various innovative sectors
  • Sittard is the region’s natural urban center
  • Sittard-Geleen is a young, modern city with much appeal on well-educated young people.
After the KcBB study, these were encouraging results.

3. The objective
Also encouraging was the process that resulted in this summary. In this process representatives from the municipality, societal organizations, companies, arts and culture, education, tourism, and sports were involved. This group was a nice representation of the city’s population.

They all supported the objective: in 2020, Sittard-Geleen is known as the most entrepreneurial city in Limburg – socially, culturally as well as commercially.
This is required to retain inhabitants, companies, and visitor in the city.

4. The organization
Unlike other cities, city marketing for Sittard-Geleen is not a matter for the municipality, but also for the parties that had contributed to the analysis. In 2010, an association was founded with organizations and companies as members: Vereniging BrandPartners Sittard-Geleen.

5. The target group
The most important target group for city marketing by BrandPartners are well-educated young people (aging 17 to 27 years), with a preference for practical, beta-oriented education and work. This focus was supported by additional research, executed by the market research agency RMI from Heerlen.

6. The tools
One of the tools to reach this target group is the website This site informs in Dutch, English, and German about themes such as living, business, recreation, studying, and shopping.

7. The proof
Within the theme business, under “Innovations” the website informs about initiatives that make Sittard-Geleen an entrepreneurial city:
  • Chemelot, comprising Brightlands Chemelot Campus and Chemelot Industrial Park
  • The logistics hub, with the Barge Terminal Sittard-Geleen at Holtum North
  • The car manufacturer VDL Nedcar
  • The modern Zuyderland hospital
  • The excellent sports facilities at Sportzone Limburg.
And anyone who requires more proof that Sittard-Geleen is entrepreneurial goes to “Made in Sittard-Geleen” for:
  • Agora, pioneer with laser light
  • Ekompany, manufacturer of super fertilizer
  • Isaac, producer of sports bikes.
8. The results
It’s not 2020 yet and therefore it’s too early to determine if Sittard-Geleen is actually known as Limburg’s most entrepreneurial city. In the meantime, the website attracts much attention.

And I’m proud that many “business” examples in Sittard-Geleen come from the Chemelot site and the Brightlands campus. This certainly contributes to the objective of the BrandPartners, particularly because both entities have the ambition to grow in number of employees.

In this context, it’s relevant to mention that many of the students studying at Brightlands Chemelot Campus come from abroad. At the campus the Maastricht University offers the bachelor Maastricht Science Programme and the Master Biobased Materials. Perhaps some of these students are the future entrepreneurs of Sittard-Geleen.

More information about Sittard-Geleen:
This is a repost of my (Dutch) October 31, 2016 post.
Read my May 20, 2013 blog post about the reason why of my English reposts.

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