After dumping German plant, Nokia to pitch in on 'Growth for Bochum'

Although Nokia has now made a financial concession to Bochum, Germany worth well over $30 million USD, the city will still be left without its main source of income, after Nokia pulls up stakes and moves its factory to Romania.

Through an initiative announced July 3, Nokia will contribute 20 million euros -- the current equivalent of 31.4 million US dollars -- to help fund a new program rather ironically entitled "Growth for Bochum."

Further, while Nokia won't be fueling any economic growth through continued employment of city residents, the Finnish-based cell phone company has also promised to pitch in to the program with proceeds from the planned sale of its factory and property in the German city.

Also under the settlement unveiled last week, North Rhine-Westphalia Bank (NRW) will contribute another 20 million euros toward Growth for Bochum, a program that will supposedly be run under the "joint responsibility" of Nokia, NRW, and the City of Bochum.

As previously reported in BetaNews, Nokia's initial announcement in January around closing the plant spawned street riots and calls for boycotts of Nokia consumer products, along with vehement government outcries. Germans were particularly incensed that Nokia announced the demise of the factory just after posting record company profits.

The new Growth for Bochum program is the upshot of a joint task force launched early this year to review Nokia's decision to move its cell phone plant to the cheaper environs of Romania.

Elements of Growth for Bochum include a "proactive, international campaign" to bring investors to Bochum and the surrounding region; establishment of an "Enterpreneur Center," also in Bochum; the creation of a chair or some other mechanism at Bochum University for "commercialization of scientific research;" and, last but not least, "finding a suitable buyer [for] the Nokia facilities in Bochum to ensure job creation on the site with financial support."

Nokia has never officially given in to NRW's requests for the return of the 41 million Euros in government subsidies the vendor received for opening the German factory in the late 1990s. Yet through the financial package announced last week, Nokia could end up spending much more.

But while it might be better than nothing, the package could come as cold comfort to many local residents. There are no guarantees around either whether other investors will be attracted to the North Rhine-Westphalia region, or when a buyer will be found for Nokia's now abandoned plant in Bochum.

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