Many from Germany
It was in the 1970s that the Bosch and Siemens Home Appliances Group (BSH) first entered the Slovenian market, starting cooperation with a factory for small home appliances in Nazarje. In 2010, the facility will produce more than seven million appliances. Compared to Hella Saturnus, however, BSH is a new kid on the block. Saturnus started trading in Slovenia 90 years ago.
The popularity Slovenia has with this Central European nation is now such that there is a Slovenian-German Chamber of Industry and Commerce. Established in 2006, the Chamber is dedicated to continuing the strong connections between the two countries. To this end, each year it surveys German companies in Slovenia or those with German capital. The aim is to gain a clear sense of the situation for German businesses trading in Slovenia.
Surveying the scene
The results of this year's survey were released in April. They showed that Slovenia was regarded as the most attractive investment prospect of 18 countries in central, eastern and south eastern Europe.
Rudolf Klötscher, chief executive of BSH Hišni Aparati, says Slovenia has multiple benefits for German companies.
"We like to summarise the positive aspects of the Slovenian market into the 'four Qs'", he explains. "First is the quality of the workforce, second is the quality of infrastructure, third is quality of location and fourth is, of course, quality of life."
Christof Droste, managing director of Hella Saturnus, agrees that there are numerous positives aspects to the Slovenian market: "I would highlight good and educated people who are very ambitious and productive and a very established market with low fluctuation," he says. "And due to the length of business experience with Western Europe you find very good foreign language and culture skills here."
Taxing times and wage worries
Klötscher and Droste don't just agree on the benefits of Slovenia. They also agree that some recent developments are cause for concern from the perspective of German companies.
"Slovenia is an important location for us," Klötscher asserts. "But the cost topic is making us a bit nervous because Slovenia is no longer the low cost country for production sites.
"It is understandable that the government needs to find money to pay for the increase in unemployment but, in my opinion, raising the prices and taxes on fuel and energy is not smart because it's just a 'quick fix', not a long term strategy."
Of the companies surveyed by the Chamber of Commerce, 52 percent shared Klötscher's dissatisfaction with the Slovenian tax system. Most - 67 percent - complained that the tax burden on them was high.
Another source of worry for some companies is the proposed rise in the minimum wage. While both Klötscher and Droste say they don't object to the planned 30 percent increase they do warn it could be a risky move in a time of crisis. They are urging the government to apply the increase gradually - according to Droste, a sudden huge increase could "cause further disproportion and dissatisfaction".
Relying on the market
This year's Slovenian-German Chamber of Industry and Commerce survey may have revealed minimum wage and other worries on the part of German companies. But as Chamber member Henry Dvoršak points out, German firms don't necessarily expect the government to act in ways which will benefit their business."German companies in Slovenia do not rely on help but on the market," says the representative of Weishaupt, a company making technology for burners, heat pumps, heating and solar equipment. It's an attitude which has helped some of them flourish in the Slovenian market for almost a century - and one which seems likely to guarantee continuing success in the next hundred years.