Urbani izziv Volume 23, No. supplement, July 2012
Eike W. Schamp
Department of Human Geography, Goethe University of Frankfurt/M., Frankfurt/M, Germany
Constructing a Global Centre for Competence from Local Knowledge: The Case of Pirmasens
Mature industrial districts generally appear to suffer from a steady reduction of their technological competences and competitiveness. However, the long period of decline also offers an opportunity for countervailing policies. Using the ageing footwear district of Pirmasens (Germany) as an example, this paper discusses learning processes in rejuvenating the competence base of the industry. After several decades of continuous decline, a new competence base was launched around the establishment of the International Shoe Competence Centre ISC. The paper firstly discusses the adaption of the concept of “competence”, a tool used in regional high tech policies, to the low tech, traditional and cross-sectoral shoe production system. Secondly, the paper considers the special historical conditions which enabled local and non-local actors to ensure the success of policies based on rejuvenated “traditional” competences. External shocks which simultaneously deepened crises and provided opportunities include the breakdown of the socialist system, the unification of Germany and the erosion of the regional economic prosperity as a result of the withdrawal of American troops from their main base in Germany. Constructing the centre for competence was in itself a cumulative and path-creating process. It is, however, more beneficial to globalized shoe companies than to the region.
local knowledge, renewal of industrial district, traditional industries, local initiatives