Strengthening Stuttgart as a trade fair location
„With Ulrich Kromer, we are bidding a well-deserved farewell into retirement to a distinguished figure who has distinctly shaped the Stuttgart State Fair for almost two decades. With a strong creative will, he conceptually developed Messe Stuttgart further, made it known far beyond the borders of the country and set the course for continued success in future“, underlined Baden-Württemberg Minister President Winfried Kretschmann at the Messe Stuttgart New Year's Reception. In this context, Kromer was given an early, official farewell in front of around 1,800 guests.
Without a doubt, the highlight of Ulrich Kromer’s work was the official opening of the new Messe Stuttgart on 19 October 2007: "How many CEOs can say that the incumbent Federal President of Germany has visited them? It was an unforgettable day when Federal President Horst Köhler opened our exhibition grounds at Stuttgart Airport," admits Ulrich Kromer without hesitation.
The road to that day had been long and rocky. There was a lot of resistance against the construction on the Filder natural region. Nevertheless, a new, contemporary and larger exhibition site was long overdue in a prospering economic region like Baden-Württemberg and especially in the greater Stuttgart area. Complaints from the regional industry, which wanted a platform to showcase its machines and products in the state that would match its economic power, had become louder and louder.
Ulrich Kromer began his work for Messe Stuttgart in January 2001 as President and successor to Dr Walter Gehring. In this position, he was able to play an active role in planning and constructing the new exhibition site, in its logistics processes and in the selection of service providers. Together with project corporation Projektgesellschaft Neue Messe (ProNM) as the client, he was able to drive forward the Neue Messe Stuttgart project, for which his predecessor had already set the course. The move itself, with the ceremonial opening, formed the successful conclusion of this mammoth project. "Usually, this kind of occasion is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I was very lucky in that I had already experienced the move to a new location with Messe Leipzig," says Kromer with a smile.
The next step was the construction of an administration building for the employees. who now have had their offices opposite the exhibition halls looking out over the large open Messepiazza since 2008. The old trade fair site in downtown Stuttgart’s Killesberg Hill Park became a thing of the past. What followed was a success story for which Kromer laid the foundations. "With the move to the new premises, we had 105,200 square metres of exhibition space at our disposal, twice as much as at the Killesberg site. Within the first two years already, CMT, the world's largest consumer show for tourism and leisure, and AMB, the international exhibition for metalworking, occupied all the halls in their entirety. However, our aim had to be to fill this space permanently and we wanted to become more international, both with regard to the exhibitors and to the visitors, in order to remain economically successful," says Kromer in retrospect, explaining the goal that had been set – and achieved. The trade fairs held in Stuttgart showed a marked increase in the internationality of exhibitors and visitors under the aegis of Kromer.
To achieve this, internal restructuring was carried out and specialist departments were formed in which trade fairs with similar themes were combined in order to better address customers and provide more individual customer service. Kromer is responsible for Industrial Solutions, Business & Education, Guest Events/Stuttgart International Congress Center, MARKOM and Technology/Infrastructure. However, before the exhibition business' reorganisation, he was also responsible for the consumer shows, of which CMT and Retro Classics in particular are well-known in their industries. The appearance of the trade fair and also the trade fair logo were revised to symbolise a new spirit of optimism. Finally, with the introduction of hall marketing partnerships, Kromer had an innovative idea for which other trade fair venues can only envy Messe Stuttgart. "Today, everyone talks about the Bosch parking garage. Both Bosch and Messe Stuttgart are proud of this cooperation," Kromer is happy to report. The L-Bank Forum, the Oskar Lapp Hall, the Alfred Kärcher Hall, the Rothaus Park, the Schenker Avenue, the Paul Horn Hall, the Jaques Lanners Hall, the Ikono VIP-Lounge and the Mahle Hall would follow. All these marketing partnerships opened the door to new money for Messe Stuttgart and ProNM, which could be profitably invested.
Kromer achieved a major coup with the establishment of the industrial trade fairs organised by P. E. Schall GmbH & Co. KG, which was looking for a new, larger trade fair venue. The parties agreed on a deal and the company has been the largest guest organiser at the Stuttgart exhibition site ever since. Kromer was also involved in developing and acquiring further well-known trade fairs and conferences such as Logimat, Fastener Fair, Lasys, Moulding Expo, Castforge, T4M, In.Stand, IKA/Culinary Olympics, Gelatissimo and Dach + Holz. The new projects have not always been successful, but for Kromer this is also part of the entrepreneurial risk. "If you want to succeed, you also have to take chances. Without the courage to tackle new topics, you cannot advance a trade fair venue." A special event highlight for Kromer was the ThyssenKrupp IdeenPark 2008, which attracted enthusiastic visitors. "Overall, the guest event business was steadily expanded and now accounts for around 30 to 40% of our total turnover, depending on the trade fair year," reports Kromer.
In 2010, a good two years after the move, the new exhibition site hit a major milestone that no one had expected quite so soon. "We had achieved our ten-year target and thus placed Messe Stuttgart among the top ten German trade fair venues," says Kromer. "Since the move, turnover has almost tripled compared to the Killesberg site. It is now at around €180 million in the even years when a particularly high number of events take place and Stuttgart is the eighth most important trade fair venue in Germany."
In terms of international expansion, the Stuttgart parent company successfully established satellite trade fairs abroad, such as an R+T Asia. However, there were setbacks in these efforts as well. "Due to the general political climate, we unfortunately had to completely discontinue our formerly very successful business with Iran."
At the Stuttgart location itself, the tenth exhibition hall (the Paul Horn Hall) was commissioned in January 2018 and Messe Stuttgart's exhibition area was expanded to 120,000 square metres. This urgently needed space, which in the first year was already completely occupied by various in-house and guest trade fairs, brought a new record turnover to Messe Stuttgart.
Kromer has also already made provisions for the future of Messe Stuttgart. Many partner contracts for trade fairs were extended into the 2030s. "This ensures that capacity utilisation will continue to be secure in subsequent years," Kromer is pleased to report. He has also helped to draw up a master plan for 2025. "This plan is essentially about the further expansion of the exhibition grounds with an eleventh hall, an additional congress building and more parking spaces," summarises Kromer. It is also very important to him to maintain a good relationship with the neighbours at the location as well as with the shareholders and partners. "You can only grow and achieve good results for everyone if there is mutual understanding between the partners involved," Kromer is convinced.
Ulrich Kromer – a short CV:
- Born on 3 August 1952 in Fulda, Hesse.
- 1970–1973: Trainee for logistics management in Basel.
- 1974–1976: Logistics Manager at Danzas AG, Basel, Switzerland and Thos. Meadows Co. Ltd., Leicester, UK.
- 1976–1984: Authorised Representative at Exim-Index AG, Basel and Zofingen, Switzerland.
- 1984–1988: Managing Partner of Expopartner AG, Zurich, Switzerland.
- 1989–1994: Managing Director of Blenheim Schweiz AG, Zurich, Blenheim Int. Deutschland GmbH, Düsseldorf and Member of the Supervisory Board in Switzerland and London (Blenheim Group Plc, today Reed Exhibitions).
- 1994–1995: Freelance work for the Blenheim Group and other trade fair companies.
- 1996–2001: Managing Director of Leipziger Messe GmbH and, from 1997, Managing Director of DMA GmbH and Member of the Supervisory Board member for Maxicon GmbH.
- Since 2001: President of Stuttgarter Messe- und Kongressgesellschaft mbH (which was renamed Landesmesse Stuttgart GmbH), as well as the former Durma GmbH (2001–2003) and ProNM (since 2004–present).
- From 2006: CEO for the Landesmesse Stuttgart GmbH management.
Voluntary activities (excerpt):
- From June 2004: Member of the Executive Board for the Association of the German Trade Fair Industry (AUMA)
- January 2004–December 2007 and since 1 January 2019: Chairman of the Association of German Trade Fairs and Exhibition Cities (IDFA)
- November 2001–present: Member of the Executive Board for the German Chamber of Commerce in Vienna, Austria
- Member of the Executive Board for the State Association of Baden-Württemberg Industry e.V. (LVI BW)
- Golden badge of honour of the Federal Association of Roller Shutters, Gates, Sun Protection (BVRS)
- Plaque of honour from the German Hotel and Restaurant Association (DEHOGA) in Baden-Württemberg, Germany
- "Golden Bull's Eye" from the Stuttgart celebrity football team (Stuttgart Prominenten-Kicker)
Photo 1: Opening of Neue Messe Stuttgart on 19 October 2007. Federal President Horst Köhler signs the Messe Stuttgart yellow book. (Copyright Messe Stuttgart)
Photo 2: Ulrich Kromer with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the 2008 CDU party conference at Messe Stuttgart. (Copyright Messe Stuttgart)
Photo 3: He directed the fortunes of Messe Stuttgart for 19 years and tripled the company's turnover during this time: Ulrich Kromer in front of Entrance East for the Motorrad live guest trade fair. (Copyright Messe Stuttgart)
About Messe Stuttgart
With a total turnover of around 180 million Euro and a profit of 34 million Euro in the strong even business years, Messe Stuttgart is one of Germany's leading trade fair companies. Every year over 23,500 exhibitors present their products and services to around 1.36 million visitors on a hall area of 120,000 square metres, on an outdoor area of 40,000 square metres and in around 33 rooms that offer flexible use in the adjoining ICS International Congress Center Stuttgart. Since its opening in October 2007, Messe Stuttgart has been dedicated to its "Green Statement" of sustainable commitment with the careful use of resources and environmentally friendly behaviour. At the beginning of November 2012, Messe Stuttgart joined the industry code "fairpflichtet" established by the European Association of Event Centres and the German Convention Bureau. It provides supporters with practical guide so that they can live up to their corporate responsibility.