Representatives from science, business and economic policy discussed the current economic situation at the first digital round table for Mittelstand businesses
"It is very positive that the successive restart of the economy is not oriented towards the companies' value-added contribution, but towards health policy considerations. After all, irrespective of their contribution to the national economy, Mittelstand businesses make a significant contribution to education, innovation and social stability in Germany," said Prof. Dr Friederike Welter (IfM Bonn/University of Siegen) yesterday, when opening the first digital Round Table Mittelstand businesses. 38 representatives from research institutes, business associations, the KfW Bankengruppe as well as from the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and the Ministry for Economic Affairs, Innovation, Digitalisation and Energy of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia discussed "Mittelstand businesses in the corona crisis" during a two-hour telephone conference.
According to Hans-Jürgen Wolter's (IfM Bonn) research, a differentiated strategy cannot be avoided. After all, he says, there are sectors of the economy in which a minimum distance requirement can be guaranteed more easily, such as in branches of the construction industry. On the contrary, he expects that the gastronomy, businesses in the tourism sector and artists will have to rely on support from governments for much longer. The panellists also called for special assistance for self-employed women with children and for migrants. After all, the latter often work in the sectors that are currently heavily affected by the shutdown.
Nevertheless, the coronavirus pandemic crisis is perceived quite differently by the companies: "While companies in Saxony-Anhalt, Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania tend to write more about adjustments to the current situation on their websites, companies in western federal states point out serious problems as a result of the shutdown much more frequently," reported Dr Georg Licht (ZEW - Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research Mannheim GmbH).
Among all the federal government's measures, the self-employed particularly welcome the "emergency aid. In contrast, easier access to basic benefits is not seen as being helpful, even though the liquidity situation of many solo self-employed is tight and a fifth of them even expect to have to end their self-employment activities," said Prof. Dr Jörn Block (University of Trier), summing up the first results of a current online survey among self-employed individuals.
According to Dr Katarzyna Haverkamp (ifH Göttingen), a two-pronged approach is necessary: "It is important both to support start-ups and to stabilise existing companies so that the companies, which offer vocational training will not be lost."
In the opinion of Fabian Wehnert (BDI), a rapid opening of the inner-European borders is essential for the German industry – regardless whether companies are listed or Mittelstand family businesses. Open boarders would internationally contribute positively to the economy and jobs and help to reactivate the partially disrupted value chains.
A special analysis of the expert survey for the "Mittelstand Future Panel" has shown that the coronavirus pandemic crisis poses challenges for Mittelstand businesses, but also offers opportunities. According to Britta Levering (IfM Bonn), the participating Mittelstand experts from reseach, business and Mittelstand policy expect both, a more consistent, faster and more comprehensive implementation of digitisation as well as more innovations and the development of new business activities and market segments in the future.
Opportunities in the business succession process are also evident during the coronavirus pandemic crisis, as research by Prof. Dr Isabell Stamm (TU Berlin) shows: "Currently, sellers and buyers of Mittelstand businesses are cautious and reserved. With one exception: companies that are already digitally equipped and positioned are more likely to be sold currently or are enjoying increased demand." Besides, digital business platforms in particular are being used intensively, observes the researcher from Berlin.
The new Federal Government Commissioner for Mittelstand businesses, Parliamentary State Secretary Thomas Bareiß, appreciated the discussions between research, business and politics at yesterday's Mittelstand Round Table: "In coping with the Corona pandemic and in designing the first steps towards a new start for the economy and society, policymakers are in need of the best ideas from research and the business community. The fresh insights into how businesses are affected, the impact of government support and the prospects for success of possible growth-enhancing measures will help to design a Mittelstand policy that reaches the affected and spreads real confidence. I am therefore very happy about the lively interdisciplinary exchange at the Mittelstand Round Table, which provided numerous suggestions for policy - from the call for the broadest possible support, to the push for digitalisation and start-ups, to the emphasis on regulatory principles and the importance of open markets and borders in Europe and worldwide. I am very much looking forward to joining in the discussions myself at future meetings of the Mittelstand Round Table!"