SEDA: A business mecca – Karin Heimann

The Canton of Solothurn features a balanced mix of economic sectors and is an increasingly popular business centre thanks to its location on the Swiss plateau. Karin Heimann, managing director of the Solothurn Economic Development Agency (SEDA), which provides value-added service to global companies setting up operations, reveals what attracts them to the region.

What makes Solothurn an ideal place to establish a company?
Karin Heimann:
In our opinion, an ideal place for doing business is inextricably linked with the location and is not just defined by an incoherent, isolated tax rate.

The benefits of the Canton of Solothurn include: being European, truly Swiss and located in the centre of important Swiss metropolitan areas; having a clearly superior bottom line; being home to many international companies; and having an open-minded business culture that encourages and incentivises exportation.

The encyclopaedic technological know-how available in the region is virtually unique worldwide. The Canton of Solothurn is already home to many companies that are world-leaders in industry fields such as precision mechanics and medical technology, and more and more organisations want to be part of it.

A professor at the Federal Institute of Technology Zurich recently defined it as: "Whatever mankind intends to invent or construct, there is only one place in the world where it is possible to realize it, with the necessary know-how available within one hour's drive."

Provide a brief overview of the Solothurn economy. What are the main sectors in the canton?
The allocation of sectors reflects the Swiss average: second sector 33% and third sector 63%. However, when looking at the different industries, Solothurn clearly stands out in machinery, precision mechanics, electronics and medical technologies. Currently, we are observing growth in the general business services sector, and in an increasing number of international companies.

Historically, half of the Solothurn GDP is in exportation, which equals approximately CHF 7 billion. Most of the goods sell to Europe, the US and Asia. So, Solothurn is very export savvy.

What are the long-term benefits of a company coming to Solothurn?
Since the Canton of Solothurn is the most centrally located canton within the relevant Swiss urban areas, a third of the Swiss population lives within a one-hour drive, while the 1.5 million job-holders in the region represent the biggest attainable recruiting market in Switzerland.

It is also one of the most inexpensive places to set up a business in Switzerland, due to a consistently healthy cost structure and a slim administration. Over the long term, the advantages and incentives offered by Solothurn compared with metropolitan areas will make it the location of choice for more and more companies.

What types of companies invest in Solothurn?
We are observing an increase in M&As instigated by both Swiss and foreign companies, which take over an existing production facility and incorporate it into their own structures. There is usually no reduction in the number of jobs but an increase in qualification. For example, Johnson & Johnson took over the Solothurn Medtech giant Synthes in a $21 billion deal.

Internationally, an increased number of organisations from various industries are considering relocating their headquarters to the Canton of Solothurn; usually these kind of company functions originate from the US, China and India.

How do you differentiate Solothurn from other cantons in Switzerland?
As a business location Solothurn offers the following attributes:
- It is the centre of important Swiss urban and economic areas which are just half an hour distant.
- It is in close proximity to the biggest job market in Switzerland.
- It has a clearly superior bottom line compared with neighbouring cantons in the Swiss midlands.
- It has been a centre of technological innovation and knowledge for generations.

What sort of value-added services do you offer to companies setting up operations in Solothurn?
The Solothurn Economic Development Agency (SEDA) renders fully fledged services for free. In our broad network, we can address any question and connect with the right partner at the right time.

Currently we focus on exclusive and tailor-made tax solutions and incentives, which in some geographic areas are extendable to the federal level. This means that under certain prerequisites tax holidays can also be applied to the 8.5% federal tax on top.

So, the Canton of Solothurn, a place that is highly advantageous to business, where everything is possible and new ideas can be realised, unencumbered by bureaucracy.

Karin Heimann, managing director of the Solothurn Economic Development Agency (SEDA).