14. septiembre 2009

Celebrating the 70th birthday of Dietmar Harting

Dietmar Harting

Dietmar Harting, general partner and proprietor of HARTING KGaA, celebrates his 70th birthday on September 15, 2009.

Earlier this year the Minister of Economic Affairs of North Rhine-Westphalia, Christa Thoben, presented him with the Federal Order of Merit, First Class. The award conferred by Federal President Horst Köhler distinguishes him as one of the leading business figures in the Ostwestfalen-Lippe region and recognizes his outstanding contribution to the German economy as a whole through his commitment at national and international levels to the development of industrial standards.

It was back in 1973 when Mr. Harting, a Berliner by birth, took the helm of the family business founded in Minden in 1945 by his parents Wilhelm and Marie Harting. With determination, passion, perseverance and a far-sighted vision of the future, Mr. Harting has displayed a tireless zest for action – “An entrepreneur must never rest on his laurels”. Joined by his wife at the head of company in 1987, he has developed this high-tech business into a global supplier, specializing mainly in electrical, electronic and optical connectors and transmission and networking technology. As the leader in its sector, the business now comprises 28 national companies and representative offices with production plants in Espelkamp (5), Great Britain, Switzerland, Romania, the USA and China, as well as the sales and distribution center of HARTING Deutschland GmbH & Co. KG in Minden and employs a workforce of around 3,000. At its headquarters in Espelkamp, HARTING KGaA is the largest employer with a workforce of almost 1,600 and is characterized by a wide-ranging commitment to the social, cultural and sporting life of the locality, as well as promoting technology-oriented education and supporting young people. In its 2007/2008 financial year the company achieved sales of EUR 385 million (previous year EUR 345 million).

After studying electrical engineering and economics in Munich, Hanover and Cologne (graduating with a degree in commerce), Dietmar Harting began his career with the family business in 1967 at the age of 28. By this time the company, which had moved to Espelkamp in 1950, had a workforce of around 1,000 and a turnover in Germany of some DM 29 million. In the early post-war years the founder Wilhelm Harting found success with day to day consumer products such as lamps, hot plates and irons, as well as juke boxes. Later on, in a step that was to prove decisive, the range was expanded to include a newly developed, robust and easy-to-use connector. The triumph of the universally applicable Han® connector paved the way for the dynamic development of the young company. In the meantime, HARTING holds 789 patents.

Since joining the family business, as managing director of HARTING Elektronik GmbH from 1973 and general partner in HARTING KGaA since 1996, Dietmar Harting has consistently and highly successfully focused on internationalizing the Technology Group, as well as on the continuous, innovative development of the product portfolio. He made his vision clear as long ago as 1996: “We want to become a global enterprise.” Coupled with this is the equal intention to remain “an independent family business”.

HARTING has developed into a global universal connector specialist, offering custom-designed products for energy and data transmission and networking. Potential applications range from mechanical engineering and railway systems to wind energy plants, factory automation and telecommunications. The company also offers electromagnetic systems for the automobile industry, ideal housing and casing solutions, and also retail shop systems. The connector concept born in the early years of the company has since produced industrial Ethernet solutions, flexible energy transmission and connection systems, and even electro-optical connectors capable of the highest data transmission speeds. No wonder that in 2006 HARTING was awarded the International Technology Prize at the Hanover Fair, the Hermes Award, for a very special development, the UHF RFID transponder. Once again in 2009, another new ground-breaking development from HARTING was nominated for the Hermes Award. True to the philosophy of always maintaining close contact with its customers and meeting their needs, as the business has expanded and become ever more international in its outlook since the 1970s, the company has established numerous foreign subsidiaries and production plants, most recently in Zhuhai, China and Sibiu, Romania.

The man at the helm, however, whose original wish was to become an archaeologist, has a passion for more than just business and technology. From the very beginning, Dietmar Harting has been actively committed to various organizations and associations, accepting numerous positions and duties that extend far beyond his own business interests. And, as he says, it has always given him great pleasure. From 1998 to 2004, Mr. Harting was the first proprietor of an SME to hold the Presidency of the German Electrical and Electronics Industry Association (ZVEI). In acknowledgement of his services at the end of his term of office he was appointed Honorary President of the ZVEI. As Chairman of the German Commission for Electrical, Electronic & Information Technologies of DIN and VDE, Dietmar Harting – meanwhile as an honorary member – continues to pursue his particular passion for standardization. Since the end of 2003 he has also headed the German standardization body DIN, and in 2007 he was appointed as President of the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (CENELEC). As a member of the EXPRESS group (Expert Panel for the Review of European Standardization) set up by the European Commission he is working intensively on strategic recommendations for the medium-term development of European standards. In 1995 Dietmar Harting was appointed to the Research and Technology Board; He actively supported Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's initiative "Partner for Innovation" and subsequently Chancellor Angela Merkel.

From the very beginning HARTING has ranked as a regular exhibitor at the Hanover Fair. Consequently, it is not surprising that Mr. Harting, who since 1999 has also been a member of the Presidential Board of the Federation of German Industries (BDI), has a strong commitment to the organizer, Deutsche Messe AG of Hanover. He is currently Deputy Chairman of the Supervisory Board and chairs the Construction and Investment Committee. In honor of his long-term services to Deutsche Messe AG, in 2008 Dietmar Harting was presented with the organization’s Gold Medal of Honor. In 2004, Minister President Christian Wulff had already presented Mr. Harting with the Merit Award 1st Class of the State of Lower Saxony.

The company itself is also closely linked with the history and industrial development of the town of Espelkamp, where it has been headquartered for almost six decades. HARTING was one of the first five companies to set up business in the community founded by refugees in 1949, and is the only one still in family ownership. As the Technology Group has grown, it has played a major role in the positive development of all areas of life in Espelkamp. Its clear commitment to the town and the surrounding region has been reflected in major investment and modern industrial architecture. The decision at the end of the 1970s to build a production plant in the new Gewerbegebiet Nord paved the way for further local development as other companies soon followed suit. HARTING later also became the first company to locate by the Mittellandkanal, and again set an example for others to follow. In 2008 a unique training center was built on the derelict site formerly occupied by medical equipment manufacturer Picker. The NAZHA combines training facilities for both commercial and industrial apprentices under one roof. The new sales offices of HARTING Deutschland GmbH & Co. KG in Minden were inaugurated in 2001. The plans were designed by the world-famous Swiss architect Mario Botta. The striking building in the historic setting of the district center marked a new chapter in the architectural history of the locality.

Dietmar and Margrit Harting have also been generous in their support for cultural, sporting, medical and social facilities and initiatives, both publicly and behind the scenes. In 2002 the couple made a million euro donation to finance the complete redevelopment and modernization of the Neues Theater in Espelkamp which is today one of the most modern venues in the region and beyond. The Harting family also number among the sponsors of local church music and the volunteer fire brigade. Dietmar Harting himself is a lover of ball games. For 30 years he has been a member of Handballverein Espelkamp (HVE), and his loyalty to the local sports club Allgemeiner Turn- und Sportverein (ATSV) dates back half a century. The HARTING company also sponsors VfL Osnabrück and local team FC Preußen. Mr. Harting, however, reserves a particular affection for handball first league club GWD Minden of which he is an enthusiastic supporter, both financially and in other ways. Until the age of 18, Dietmar Harting and his parents lived in Dankersen, now a suburb of Minden - hence his enthusiasm for GWD and his close personal ties with the club.

When his business and voluntary commitments allow him the time, Dietmar Harting enjoys hunting, farming and playing Scrabble with his wife Margrit. As far as the business is concerned, some of the load is now taken by son Philip and daughter Maresa, the third generation to join the company. And of course there are also the two grandchildren who lay claim to their grandfather’s devoted attention.