The business of hot air
Roman Gorovoy, 36, is visibly proud of his new empire in the industrial area of Ebersbach an der Fils. It is to here, in a former factory and warehouse complex in the district of Göppingen, that the boss of the internationally renowned industrial vacuum cleaner and hand dryer manufacturer starmix has relocated. And where the visitors at the former location in the neighbouring Reichenbach (circle Esslingen) were surrounded the somewhat morbid charm of premises which had seen better years, the new surroundings look extremely modern. While the ground floor is used for production and the products are piled up in a high-tech high-bay warehouse , an open-plan area with 80 workspaces has been set up for management under the roof, furnished with a café-bar and lounge – and with no walls separating the office units. Even the boss sits right there, amongst his people. "We need this open culture," he says, and sees the move as a signal to his team to open up to new ways of working, to become even faster and more flexible. Because the competition out there is tough, especially for a small company like Starmix, which has to compete with global companies like Kärcher and Dyson. On the wall somewhere, Gorovoy has a quote attributed to the poet Bertolt Brecht printed on the wall: “Those who fight can lose. Those who do not fight have already lost.” This fits in well with how the company boss, who took starmix over shortly before the bankruptcy, sees himself. At that time, 12, 13 years ago, he joined the management of the traditional Reichenbach firm. Just a young guy of 24, a native of Russia, who had befriended the son of the family which owned the business while studying in Salem.
Following the rescue, the boss preferred investing in products rather than in stoneswork
The best years of Starmix seemed to be long gone. In the 1960s the company was a great success thanks to its cult kitchen machines. The collapse , however, was abrupt, as the competition was too big and their own production had become too expensive. Only 100 out of 600 employees were left. But, for some time now, Starmix has been on the way up again. Some 43 million euros of turnover were generated by around 200 employees last year, with double-digit annual growth rates. Innovative industrial vacuum cleaners and a cheeky marketing concept with a personal touch were what ensured this success. The slogan: "Made in Germany, made for you". Whilst Roman Gorovoy made a point of investing in the products rather than in stonework in the first few years, after about two years of planning, it was time for the next step – the move to the new building in Ebersbach. And the daughter company, the road sweeper company Haaga, which had been based in Kirchheim/Teck moved into the new location too. “It was a difficult step for us to take", says the company owner Gorovoy. Reichenbach had been our "home” for decades. However, it is not uncommon for companies to change location. The latest study of the subject by the Chamber of Industry and Commerce Stuttgart (IHK) demonstrates that every seventh company in the commercial register has "moved at least once" between 2013 and 2016, as the experts put it. That's an astonishing figure, although the moves have tended to decline somewhat in recent years, compared to the years before. Every year, around 2350 companies look for a new location in the conurbation along the Neckar.
In this context, the Business Development Corporation of the Stuttgart region generally seeks to achieve the goal of “keeping companies local”, as spokesman Helmuth Haag puts it. If this does not work, they seek to at least keep them in the region. And if that too is not possible, "we prefer a move into the immediate vicinity, because then we retain part of the value added through partner and supplier relationships, "says Haag. After all, the Stuttgart region has lost more companies than it has won in recent years. The loss of 39 companies has been registered – and the loss affects Stuttgart in particular.
Districts such as Göppingen, Esslingen and Rems – Murr, on the other hand, had a "positive balance", according to the IHK analysis.
The Reichenbach Mayor Bernhard Richter laments the departure of this "significant company", as he says: “We are not at all keen on Starmix pulling out.” It had always made him a little bit proud to be able to find their hand dryers even in hotels on the other side of the world.
Incidentally, at starmix, cooincidence played a role in determining the new choice of location. Because in Ebersbach, the company had already been using storage space. Since spaces also influence thought, the CEO is once again hoping to push for modernisation. He has gained a lot of experience in the past few years in the parallel development of various start-up companies. The lesson he has drawn from this: “Nowadays, we have to be prepared to try things out more.”
The food processor had a cult following
Starmix was founded in the 1920s, establishing itself at the location in the center of Reichenbach an der Fils in 1928 where, until recently, the production and management of the company were still based.
In 1925, the company developed the first hand dryer in the world – a market segment that still exists and is to be expanded in the near future. Since then, starmix has moved into other businesses, especially in the form of industrial vacuum cleaners, which the company has been making since 1933. By contrast, starmix food processors, which had a cult following in the 1960s, no longer play a role in the business.
It is not unusual for a company to change its location. The Chamber of Commerce and Industry analyses these developments every four years – partly in order to see how attractive the Stuttgart region and individual districts are for businesses. Details can be found on the internet. (wö)
Von Achim Wörner