It’s me, Kalle, from the steel works.
Of course, it’s obvious what happened. At the time of the turnaround and reunification, our factories were on the brink, and not all of them managed the transition to a market economy. Among the latter was our steel works, despite its long tradition. No wonder – the way they were sweating the assets! And then the price of steel was rock bottom in the world market, we had international competition. Only the radical solution was left: wind it up completely.
At first they said, “if the steel works closes, the Elbe will be set ablaze!” and people displayed black flags. But at some point, it became obvious: Riesa as a steel-making site was history. Those were bad times. A really dreadful atmosphere in the town. And people everywhere were scared. Virtually every family in Riesa had at least one person employed by the steel works. Many, especially young people, up and left.
13,000 jobs disappeared. For myself, I was lucky – I was accepted on to a job-creation scheme that lasted several years. But it was no fun at all. I demolished my own workplace, dismantled and scrapped our old steel works – trucked away thousands and thousands of tons of scrap. Then, when the smokestacks were dynamited, I thought: now Riesa is dying.
But fortunately, things didn’t work out that badly. At some point, the 78 hectare grounds of the steel works had been cleared and were redeveloped as an industrial zone. New businesses arrived and established themselves. Investors really came – from Italy, from Switzerland, and of course from the new federal states. Some of the shop floor buildings were still suitable, so they were modernised and continued in use. There was a lot of investment in Riesa as an industrial location, and steel continues to be smelted and processed here – thanks to Feralpi. Except it’s all much cleaner and greener, of course!
Soap, tyres, electronic components and oil are also still being produced in Riesa. And our noodles are the market leader in Eastern Germany! New branches of industry have been added and are holding up well in the market. Only the levels of employment levels aren’t what they were thirty years ago – perhaps that goes without saying. And our young people are still moving away. Yet Riesa has become much more attractive, and cleaner, too. We even have a major events venue: our Sachsen Arena. Speaking for myself, I love living in our town!