Ivo Gönner, Mayor of Ulm, Germany

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Ivo Gönner
Mayor of Ulm promotes common
aims of Danube cities and regions

By Brian Baker, Senior Correspondent

28 June 2010: Ivo Gönner, the long-serving mayor of Ulm in southern Germany, has been very influential in re-positioning the local economy of the city on the upper Danube by promoting it as a science city. He is also one of the prime movers towards more cooperation between cities, regions and countries on the Danube corridor. Recently, this has led to the establishment of the Council for the Danube Regions. Mayor Gönner was awarded eighth place in World Mayor 2010.

Gönner has been mayor of Ulm, Germany, since 1991. He was re-elected in 1999 and again in 2007. He secured large majorities and around 80 per cent of the vote in both of these elections. A Social Democrat, he has managed to sustain such high levels of popular support that the opposition Christian Democrats (CDU) did not field a candidate in the 2007 contest.

Mayor Gönner qualified as a lawyer in 1981 after studying law in Heidelberg. He has been a member of the Social Democrats (SDP) since the 1970’s. Returning to Ulm, he established a law firm and subsequently became a SDP member on the city council. He became SPD council leader in 1985.

Amongst his major achievements in his long period of office in Ulm has been the successful establishment by the city council of a science park and the promotion of university and business collaboration in the bio-sciences and other new industries. Ulm has established itself as a Science City and has attracted several international science based manufacturing and research oriented companies.

Throughout his period of office the mayor has sought to develop synergies between business, especially research companies, and the University of Ulm and to take advantage of the high ratings for bio-science achieved by the University in order to enable the city to recover from losses in classical industry employment in the 1980’s.

Global companies with a major presence in the city include Daimler, which opened a manufacturing plant in 1991. Mayor Gönner visits the company and others annually to be kept fully up to date with issues and innovations. More recently Daimler Technologies, Services and Solutions, a high-tech research oriented company, has been established in Ulm. Daimler has also used the city as the test-bed for its new car rental scheme.

Ivo Gönner is known as being unusually business friendly for a social democrat politician. In spring 2010 he advocated an increase in VAT in Germany from 19 per cent to 21 per cent as a preferable remedy to budget problems than any new taxes on business.

Throughout the long gestation period of the Stuttgart-Ulm high speed rail line proposal, which was finally funded and approved in 2010, Mayor Gönner was a major proponent of its importance for future generations.

Ulm has a population of 120,000 and, in combination with Neu-Ulm on the opposite bank of the river in Bavaria, of 200,000.

Mayor Gönner has long believed that the cities and countries of the Danube Region needed to be more active in promotion and co-operation so as to have a bigger voice at European level. He was an initiator in the process of discussion and conversation amongst the cities and countries on the corridor of the Danube, which led to the Ulm Declaration in 2009 and subsequently the formal formation of the Council of the Danube Regions.

Largely as a consequence of this effort the European Commission is producing a Danube Region Strategy document which is set to be completed and published in December 2010..

Ivo Gönner has been the Chairman of the Municipalities of Baden-Württemberg since 2005. Prior to taking up that position he was the spokesperson for the group of major cities within the region.

World Mayor 20/21

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