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Face to Face with the Leaders

Marco Vollmar (tt)January 25, 2007

What is the main attraction of the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland? DW's reporter Marco Vollmar spoke to one of its participants, German steel magnate Jürgen Großman.

Jürgen Großmann
The spirit of Davos is in the people you meet, says Jürgen GroßmannImage: picture-alliance / dpa/dpaweb

"The spirit of Davos doesn't just float around," said German steel baron Jürgen Großmann. "You have to look for it in the conversations."

Jürgen Großmann is one of the 2,500 participants in the Davos World Economic Forum, together with 800 corporate chief executives or chairmen, 24 heads of state or government and 85 cabinet ministers. Großman, who is the managing partner of Georgsmarienhütte Holding -- a global producer of high-grade structural steel -- knows that networking and personal contacts are essential for doing business. That is why he has been attending the economic forum in the Swiss skiing resort for 15 years.

"There are Indian entrepreneurs in my field who are buying shares in German forges and foundries," Großmann said. "You get to know them here, you start talking to them and you ask them what it is that they really want: Are interested in acquiring a production line in Germany or do they just want to pull out the know-how and do everything in India?"

"You get to know these things much better after you've met the people," Großmann said.

Rubbing shoulders with the leaders

Angela Merkel
Angela Merkel opened the five-day brainstorming session of political and economic leadersImage: AP

After German Chancellor Angela Merkel officially opened the Davos forum on Wednesday, Großmann met her unofficially, behind the scenes. They spoke about energy supplies -- a topic which is on everybody's lips at Davos.

"The environmentally friendly production of renewable energy is always right," said Großmann. "But what about the international consensus on nuclear energy? Germany seems to be willing to go its own way there. I strongly doubt that that would be appropriate for our basic industry."

The coalition of German Socialist Democrats (SPD) and the Green party under former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder reached a ground-breaking agreement that all of Germany's nuclear power plants would be shut down by 2020.

"We're happy, of course, about having access to cheap electricity through German nuclear power plants. It would be sad, I think, if we could only get cheap electricity from abroad in the near future," Großmann said.

The village of Davos, Switzerland
Davos is an ideal setting for high-level networkingImage: AP

No fear of globalization

With 9,000 employees, Großmann's steel empire made a turnover of 2,2 billion euros ($2.9 billion) and cashed in hefty profits in 2006 -- all that in a field known for its fierce competition worldwide, massive mergers and rapid technological progress.

In the face of globalization and new players from India and China, Großmann remains confident.

"We've been the globalization champion and main winner of globalization for more than 40 years," Großmann said. "We can't now, all of a sudden, when others are getting strong, say that we don't want this anymore."

"Furthermore, we're interested in wealthy clients. The richer our client countries are, the more stuff we sell them, especially cars and machines that Germany makes lots of."