eLocations is an internet-based platform for regional cooperation in location marketing and in investment promotion. eLocations has been developed by the Stuttgart Region Development Corporation (WRS) as a non-commercial platform for the regional real estate market and as an information system integrating 179 municipalities as well as 5 counties within the Stuttgart region.
eLocations consists of a regional database for commercial real estate and of an internal software tool supporting workflows and cooperation between regional, county and municipal actors.
The regional real estate database is a web-based marketing platform for municipally-owned greenfield sites as well as for private real estate providers. Marketable properties can be advertised online and free of charge via a personal account in the extranet section of the database.
eLOCATIONS is a fully decentralized system:
- Properties are advertised online by the offering municipalities or private owners.The property advertisements are not only pooled in the regional database â€žImmobilienportal Region Stuttgartâ€œ but they are also decentrally published on the websites of the five counties and of the 179 municipalities respectively.
Information about investor inquiries is spread by WRS to the municipal investor support agencies via extranet.
eLocations bundles local information to a regional data pool that provides companies with up-to-date market information as well as with general information about location qualities and about investor support services. eLocations insures consistent information for companies regardless of the source of information they use (be it the regional database or the municipal websites).
eLocations integrates a software and a groupware tool supporting internal workflows and cooperation between regional, county and municipal levels of investment promotion.
By creating transparency within the regional real estate market, eLocations accellerates the regional property market and influences the creation of market driven properties.
- With more than 1,100 property advertisements, eLocations is the most important regional real estate database in Germany. Its high acceptance is manifested by 1,000,000 annual hits. Beside the 179 municipal users, a three-digit number of private real estate providers uses the database as a regional and/or as a local marketing platform.
- By bundling regional and local location-related information, eLocations facilitates the identification of property solutions for companies and lowers the costs of information search.
- eLocations accounts for an estimated savings effect of approximately 1 million Euros for the 179 municipalities and 5 counties within the Stuttgart region.
- eLocations is transferable and scalable to other regions. It has already been transferred to two other regions within the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg.
- Regional platforms and networking infrastructures have a positive impact on regional cooperation in investment promotion and sharpen the perception of a location within a â€žEurope of the regionsâ€œ.
- In federal structures there are possible areas of conflict between regional cooperation and intra-regional competition. eLocations contributes to an increased transparency of regional processes.
- Regional infrastructures and services have to be in line with the market. eLocations therefore is an open system that is accessible to all property market participants, be they public or private.
The Stuttgart Region Economic Development Corporation / Wirtschaftsfoerderung Region Stuttgart GmbH (WRS) is the investment promotion agency for the Stuttgart region. The Stuttgart region is formed by the state capital of Stuttgart and the five surrounding counties of Boeblingen, Esslingen, Goeppingen, Ludwigsburg and Rems-Murr-Kreis. It covers altogether 179 municipalities. The Stuttgart region has 2.7 million inhabitants and 1.4 million employed persons. With its share of 28% it is the most important economic region within the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg.
WRS was created in 1995 by the regional authority of the Verband Region Stuttgart together with the 179 municipalities and regional institutions such as the Chamber of Commerce, the trade unions etc. The regional authority of the Verband Region Stuttgart as the majority shareholder of WRS was founded in 1994 following a state legislation which accorded regional planning as well as public suburban transport responsabilities to the regional authorities. Uniquely in Germany, the Verband Region Stuttgart is democratically legitimized by a regional parliament.
Within the spectrum of regional issues, WRS fulfills the global task of strengthening and developing the regional economy as well as supporting the municipalities in their local economic development activities. Main specific tasks of WRS are location marketing, support of enterprise, promotion of innovation processes and of structural change as well as attracting new investments to the Stuttgart region.
eLocations is managed by the Location Management Division within WRS, which represents the interface between enterprises and/or investors on the one hand and the five districts and 179 municipalities on the other hand. In this context, the Location Management Division is responsible for creating the strategic framework and the platform for co-operation between regional and municipal levels as well as for efficient investor support services.
Thus, eLocations was developed as an integrative tool in order to bundle the location marketing activities on the regional level. Forthermore, it is concieved as a working and communications platform for municipalities, enterprises and participants in the regional property market.
Description of target users and groups
Private sector target groups
Real estate customers
The main target group in the private sector are companies looking for a real estate solution in the Stuttgart region.
One segment consists of companies that are already located in the Stuttgart region, but are interested in (or forced to) finding a new location within the region. Their motivations for acting on the real estate market may be the realization of growth plans, the optimization of quality or price of their property, or the necessity of consolidating, i.e. downsizing their location. This target group tends to be attached to the regional property market, but there is a risk of losing companies to the periphery of the region. According to an inquiry of the Chamber of Commerce, there have been 8.000 relocations of companies originating from the Stuttgart region in the period of time from 2005 to 2008.
The second segment consists of companies located outside of the region, who are planning to relocate their activities or to establish new activities in the Stuttgart region. This segment is very heterogenous as to type and size of the property they are looking for. Typically, there is a high extent of regional, national or even international competition to attract these companies.
Both segments are often represented by real estate brokers or commercial site consultants.
Real estate providers
Apart from municipalities who are typically offering greenfield sites for new building projects, there are several private actors on the offer side of the regional property market:
- Private owners who have invested in real estate and are trying to find buyers or tenants for their properties.
- Companies who want to market their properties they do not need any more for their own commercial activities.
- Real estate brokers who are commissioned to market privately or institutionally owned properties.
The offer side of the real estate market is typically located within the region.
Public sector target groups
Municipalities and counties
The public sector target groups are precisely determined as the territorial entities who are part of the Stuttgart region:
- The state capital of Stuttgart
- 178 further municipalities
- Five counties surrounding the city of Stuttgart
WRS fulfills its legal obligation to support the municipalities and counties within the Stuttgart region with regard to location marketing and investment promotion. In this context, municipalities and counties are looking for a framework for cooperation as well as for support in attracting new investments and in marketing their greenfield sites.
Stuttgart Region Investor Support Services
In a way, the WRS Location Management Division is its own client as to the need for information and workflow structures that back up its investor support services.
Description of the way to implement the initiative
Starting point for eLocations were the political and economic tasks of optimizing the regional property market, forming a regional network and enabling cooperation between the different levels of region, counties and municipalities. Furthermore, it was intended to increase the knowledge of municipalities and of the region with regard to the property market and to location marketing.
These objectives were discussed intensively with counties and municipalities in the context of the existing political framework of the municipal stakeholders of WRS (â€žKommunaler Poolâ€œ) as well as within the regional parliament. This resulted in specific recommendations for joint action on a regional level.
The specifications for eLocations were elaborated in workshops with municipalities and regional real estate experts. The realization of the project was finally assigned to the Location Management Division of WRS.
The following steps led to the final draft of eLocations:
- Analysis of existing instruments in other regions
- Analysis of commercial real estate databases
- Analysis of existing software solutions for investment promotion agencies
- Â Inquiry with municipalities within the Stuttgart region
- Inquiry with external experts for the regional property market
- Setting up of a project team of three experts (municipalities, property market, IT)
Public partners were involved on three public levels in order to integrate the one stop government approach:
- municipalities and counties within the region Stuttgart
- state of Baden-Wuerttemberg
Private partners were:
- the regional Chamber of Commercial as representatives of the regional economy
- property market experts
This dual approach reflected the task of linking private and public actors via eLocations.
Critical factors for the successful implementation of eLocations were:
- Analysis of the latest information technologies
- Elaboration of very detailed product requirement specifications (which prevented later cost-driving amendments to a larger extent)
- Securing acceptance by integrating municipalities and property experts in the process
- Â Integration of bug tracking and automative testing tools
- Testing by external test users (private users and municipalities)
- Regular workshops with the involved software company for status evaluation and scheduling
- Generous supply of time resources with the project manager for testing, documentation and consultation with the software developers.
- Â Implementation workshops with municipal users
Relevant success factors for the current and future development of eLocations are annual user workshops with municipalities and counties as well as regular inquiries with selected users.
eLocations is based on two technologies which correspond to the central elements of the system:
1.Â Â The web-based real estate database and extranet for workflows between WRS, municipalities and actors on the real estate market is based on the leading Open Source J2EE Java portal server JBOSS that ensures maximum performance on the web.
2.Â Â The internal location management software system is based on Lotus Notes.
1. Java portal server JBOSS
- Search runs for real estate can be done in the quick search mode or in the extended search mode.
- Search runs can be saved. There is an automatic alert for new real estate matching the individual search parameters.
- Search results can be saved in a peronal account on an extranet section.
- Â Lists of database hits can be easily screened.
- Â Fast inquiries to the real estate owner are made possible via the integrated contact form.
- Real estate profiles can be easily transformed into pdf files, thus easily enabling the passing on of information.
- Geographical and multimedia information upgrade the real estate profiles.
2. Lotus Notes-based internal software system
eLocations contains a full software solution for communication between region, counties and municipalities as well as for internal data management within the framework of location management activities. This software component has been realized on the platform of Lotus Notes due to the following requirements:
- Enabling mobile and off-line work as well as synchronisation of data
- Integrating workflows for concerted processing of investor inquiries between region and municipalities
- Integrating customer relationship management features such as calendar, mailing, customer database and project management
- Assuring a high security level by integrating digital signature
- Assuring high performance on different operating systems such as Windows, Linux and Apple
- Providing XML interfaces for data exchange with external real estate platforms, e.g. the real estate database of the Chamber of Commerce for the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg (www.bw-sis.ihk.de), commercial real estate databases (www.immonet.de), specialized software for real estate brokers
Main results, benefits and impacts
Real estate customers
The high coverage of real estate offered online, the good ergonomics as well as convenience features like automatic alerts increase the acceptance of eLocations by the customers and the opportunity to find the optimally fitting property. This is documented by a significant rise of search orders by investors looking for real estate (2008 > 1.000.000) and of actual property placements (2008 > 200) via eLocations.
The acceptance of eLocations is also fostered by two levels of quality assurance implemented within the system:
- Each real estate advertisment will be examined and approved by the local investment promotion agency prior to publication on the web.
- Outdated advertisements will be automatically archived after half a year of inactivitity on the profile.
The chance of successfully identifying and assessing alternative real estate solutions is also improved by additional advisory services from regional and local investment promotion agencies. Integrated investor support based on standardized electronic workflows accelerates the investment process following the concept of one stop government services. This may also lead to cost reductions for the companies involved.
Real estate providers
eLocations enables free online advertising by owners of properties as well as by real estate brokers via their personal account in the extranet section. The advertisment is published on the regional real estate database as well as on the relevant county and municipal websites respectively. Via automatic data transfer the real estate is also published on the real estate database of the Chamber of Commerce for the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg (www.bw-sis.ihk.de).
The automatic publishing of real estate information on four levels (municipality, county, region, state) helps avoiding redundant data input. Moreover, multiple publication levels significantly increase the marketing oppertunities for properties.
The benefit for real estate providers is documented by the number of over 700 properties that were advertised in eLocations in 2008.
eLocations provides each municipality with a powerful software tool to market their stock of greenfield (and brownfield) sites, to administrate incoming investor inquiries and company data as well as with customer relationship and workflow functionality. Thus, a higher productivity of investor support can be achieved: Integrated workflows between regional, county and municipal partners enables them to provide investors with faster and more specific information about suitable real estate offer. The quality and the speed of municipal investor support can be risen and the chance of successfully attracting investments is improved.
The availabilty of a regionally provided software package prevents municipalities from administrating data on different levels and from investing in the programming of individual municipal real estate databases. With estimated costs of 6,000 â‚¬ for implementing an individual solution, the savings effect for all municipalities within the Stuttgart region is estimated at 1.000.000 â‚¬ at least.
Traditionally, municipalities are focussed on marketing their municipally-owned greenfield sites. Reality shows that 70% of all location decisions relate to existing buildings rather than to greenfield sites. eLoctions improves the access of municipalities to information about the local real estate offer in existing buildings. Thus, the local investor support services will become more adapted to the specific needs of customers.
The regional real estate database makes the comparison of qualities and prices of real estate easier. The larger transparency of the regional real estate market helps municipalities optimizing their real estate offer according to the market needs. This leads to a higher competitiveness of the location for potential investors..
Short term effects
The above effects on real estate customers and providers lead to a more successful attraction of investments into the Stuttgart region. As a consequence, the demand for location advisory services has increased significantly.
The high quality of location marketing via eLocations has a long-term impact on the the perception of the regional real estate market. Furthermore, the implementation of eLocations has been a leverage for increasing the quality of regional investor support services: Information about the regional real estate offer matches higher standards and are supported by background information, e.g. market reports. The quality of investor services is also supported by the workflow-backed cooperation of WRS and the municipalities.
Especially in an international context, market transparency is a major criteria for attracting investments. Therefore, eLocations has a long-term impact on the competitiveness of the region and leads to an accelleration of the regional property market.
Return on investmentReturn on investment: €49-299,000
Track record of sharing
1. Sharing and co-operation within the eLocations framework
eLocations is conceived as a networking tool that integrates regional, county and municipal levels as well as different functions.
Regional, county and municipal real estate databases
The internet-based real estate database framework is shared on different levels:
- A full version is published by WRS as a regional real estate database offering a complete overview on real estate offer within the Stuttgart region (â€žImmobilienportal Region Stuttgartâ€œ).
- Extracts of the database are published on the websites of the five counties within the Stuttgart region containing exclusively real estate offer within the specific county.
- Extracts of the database are published on the websites of the municipalities within the Stuttgart region containing exclusively real estate offer within the specific city.
Sharing of data with other database frameworks
There is a regular data synchronisation with the state-wide real estate database of the Chambers of Commerce of Baden-Wuerttemberg: www.bw-sis.ihk.de
Working platform for municipal investment promotion agencies
An internal working platform for municipal investment promotion agencies is an integral part of eLocations. The platform enables them to manage internal data or to pass on data to selected partners within the system (e.g. to WRS or to other cities). Workflows between regional and municipal levels can be realized at will.
2. Sharing the eLocations framework with other regions
eLocations is widely scalable and adaptable. Thus, it can be transferred to other regions, which has actually being done with Rhine Neckar and Bodensee regions.
The Rhine Neckar region uses eLocations as a networking and marketing platform for 7 counties and more than 300 municipalities (distributed over 3 federal states). The objectives correspond to a large extent to those of the Stuttgart region.
The Bodensee region sets eLcoations within the smaller spatial framework of the Bodensee county. Therefore, marketing is a more important objective.
3. General transferability
The conception of eLocations focusses on co-operation between municipalities, counties and regions including private actors within the regional property markets.
Generally speaking, competion between locations is rather regional than local. Therefore, regional co-operation in investment promotion is an important issue. However, reality shows that investment promotion is often organized only on a municipal level.
Regional frameworks such as eLocations are transferable to a large number of regional entities fostering regional strategies and co-operation in investment promotion on a regional level.
1. Implementation of a regional framework needs strong political support
Location marketing activities on a regional level tend to be more beneficial for smaller and less organized municipalities than for cities with already strong investment promotion structures. This might lead to some extent of political resistance to regional cooperation. Therefore, a strong political backing is crucial to implementing a regional framework for location marketing successfully.
2. Interdisciplinary and cross-level project management is necessary
eLocations combines IT knowledge with know how in marketing and administration. This should be reflected by an interdisciplinary project management team. The municipal partners have to be involved as early and as closely as possible in order to adapt the technical framework to their specific needs and in order to create a maximum of acceptance.
3. No success without resources
The complexity of product requirement specifications is usually underestimated. This was also the case with the eLocations project of WRS. It is generally estimated that approx. 70% of all IT-implementations lead to unsatisfactory project results or to project abort. By massively investing manpower, WRS was able to implement eLocations successfully.
Therefore, it is strongly recommended to set up very detailed product requirement specifications and to provide the necessary resources in manpower and finance.Scope: International, Local (city or municipality), National, Pan-European, Regional (sub-national)