Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Germany's mighty Mittelstand

From Juliet Mann, CNN
updated 12:42 PM EDT, Thu May 24, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The Mittelstand is the German name for the country's 3.5 million small and medium sized businesses
  • These often family owned companies currently make up around 60% of the German workforce
  • Most Mittelstand companies tend to produce niche products for the manufacturing and engineering markets

(CNN) -- As the eurozone's financial crisis drags past its second year, Germany's powerhouse economy has kept the bloc from sinking into a double dip recession.

A quiet force behind this growth are the country's 3.5 million small and medium sized businesses, collectively known as Mittelstand.

Mittelstand companies can be found behind hard to imitate niche products for the manufacturing and engineering markets. They have played a vital role in the country's export driven economy for over a century.

Read more: Juliet Mann's blog on the Mittlestand

While latest economic data suggests even Germany is being weighed down by the crisis, that could be offset by the Mittelstand's philosophy of longevity, innovation and investment in their workforce.

Such an outlook has helped to foster community loyalty, which has kept the Mittelstand steady through economic fluctuations.

The Mittelstand often have longstanding apprentice schemes, and German universities work closely with researchers at local firms to ensure products are always improved.

Pencil maker Faber Castell is one such company. They do not chase quick profits or high risk investments, and invest in their people.

"Partially it is simply being far-sighted and smart," said Count Anton Wolfgang von Faber Castell, chairman and chief executive of the company which bears his name.

Faber Castell has been making pencils on the outskirts of Nuremberg since 1761 and today they produce one sixth of the entire world's pencils.

"We have a product which causes a yawn, pencils. But we have to stick to it and we have to try within this framework to improve, to constantly optimize the product. If you have the curiosity, you have the right people, you will always find things to improve," he said.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Marketplace Europe
updated 11:31 AM EST, Thu January 16, 2014
Marketplace Europe visits Latvia to see how the Baltic country has made its transition to the Euro from the Lat.
updated 11:30 AM EST, Thu January 16, 2014
CNN's Nina Dos Santos visits Latvia to speak to the country's outgoing Prime Minister and the prospects for the eurozone's 18th member.
updated 11:40 AM EST, Thu January 2, 2014
Malta is the gateway to Europe and on the frontline of the immigration flows. Isa Soares reports from a detention center on the Mediterranean island.
updated 11:41 AM EST, Thu January 2, 2014
CNN's Isa Soares speaks with people on the streets of Valletta who say their country can't cope with more migrants from Africa and the Middle East.
updated 5:06 AM EST, Thu January 9, 2014
Malta cannot afford to continue supporting migrants from war-torn countries in its over-crowded detention camps, the country's foreign minister has told CNN.
updated 4:23 PM EST, Thu December 26, 2013
Slow recoveries, bailouts, and youth unemployment. Richard Quest speaks to Europe's top CEOs about the issues of 2013.
updated 4:14 PM EST, Thu December 26, 2013
CNN's Richard Quest speaks to economist Bob Parker about defining moments of 2013 and about what to expect in 2014.
updated 1:15 PM EST, Thu December 5, 2013
Estonia is setting the pace for other European nations with a thriving economy and its tech industry, according to the Baltic nation's leader.
updated 2:03 PM EST, Thu December 5, 2013
The Baltic nation of Estonia is developing its oil shale energy reserves in a bid to become energy self-sufficient.
updated 4:25 AM EST, Fri November 29, 2013
Europe must stop being nationalistic if it wants to help a lost generation of workers, the regional boss of U.S. conglomerate General Electric says.
updated 12:06 PM EST, Thu November 14, 2013
Peer at the windows and you'll spot big colorful chairs, plastic plants and a huge bed, but this is no department store.
updated 5:06 AM EST, Tue November 19, 2013
There once was a time, many years ago, when the sounds of bagpipes struck fear into the stomachs of Englishmen.
updated 6:16 AM EST, Mon November 11, 2013
Greece is on the way to economic recovery as investor faith returns to the recession-ridden eurozone nation, an executive at Greece's largest bank has told CNN.
updated 7:00 AM EST, Fri November 8, 2013
Could Greece's famous spice help the country's farmers through a four-year long economic crisis.
updated 9:07 AM EDT, Fri November 1, 2013
One of the masterminds behind the euro says Europe would have suffered a far worse fate if the single currency had never been created.
updated 1:41 PM EDT, Thu October 31, 2013
Nina Dos Santos visits the Dutch city where the European treaty carrying the city's name came into force 20 years ago.
updated 11:10 AM EDT, Fri October 25, 2013
As Spain continues its drive to slash budgets and cut spending, one of the nation's favorite pastimes is under threat as ministers look for ways to boost productivity.
updated 12:17 PM EDT, Thu October 24, 2013
The high commissioner of Brand Spain talks about getting the country back on its fee and attracting business.
ADVERTISEMENT