Vienna Welcomed 218 New International Businesses in 2020 Despite COVID-19

At a press conference held on Thursday, March 11 at Vienna’s Rathaus, city officials announced that 218 new businesses relocated to Vienna or opened new offices here in 2020, bringing in a total of €263 million in investments and creating 1,718 new jobs. 

While that’s 48 less than in the previous year – an expected pandemic-related decline – Mayor Michael Ludwig and Executive City Councilor for finance, Peter Hanke, stated that they were pleased with the numbers, all things considered. “Vienna has not lost its appeal. Despite the corona crisis, we have managed to achieve the third best result since 2012,” said Ludwig. 

Gerhard Hirczi, the Managing Director of the Vienna Business Agency, added that it was not unprecedented for Vienna to make such strides, even in times of adversity. “Vienna has a great number of indicators, like safety, stability and predictability, that make a country appealing to foreign investors looking to resettle,” he concluded. 

The lion’s share of new businesses came from Germany once again, with 44 companies moving to Vienna in 2020. However, the UK took second place for the first time with 16 companies relocating – a development largely ascribed to the effects of Brexit. “In my opinion, Brexit had only one benefit, which is the increasing number of companies that are relocating from the United Kingdom to Vienna,” Ludwig said.

Political Events Prompt Resettlement

Two recent additions to the city were featured at the event: the American burger chain Five Guys and the Hungarian medical technology company Lookinmed. The CEO of Lookinmed, András Réti, stated that good conditions for research and development were not the only factors that drove their relocation. “Our team can carry out independent work in Vienna, without interference by any political groups, universities or financial institutions,” he elaborated. Indeed, political developments like the ones in Hungary or Brexit have increasingly prompted companies and organizations like the CEU (Central European University) and Lookinmed to leave their countries for Vienna. 

City Hall is working to capitalize on this by promising subsidies and making the relocation of skilled workers and scientists less challenging. To aid with the latter, the Vienna Business Agency is currently collaborating with the MA35 to create a Business Immigration Office: Set to open in mid-2021, this service-oriented agency should help expats navigate through the visa application process. 

Both Ludwig and Hanke emphasized the importance of Vienna as a university town with enrollments currently at roughly 200,000, with 27 percent of students coming from abroad. When asked if there were any plans to facilitate bureaucracy for international students that wish to settle permanently in Vienna, the mayor shifted the blame on applicants, calling the problem mostly administrative. “Applicants forget to turn in certain documents or they do it too late, which makes the whole process seem torturous,” he added. 

Despite all the good news, however, the effects of the pandemic will be felt for longer than initially expected. “In the present circumstances it is difficult to set new records, but we will do our best to achieve good results in the coming year,” Hanke conceded.