The print industry today is an industry of contrasts As exciting as the new technology is, Gutenberg would still recognize that we put ink on paper. Thursday's opening session contrasted a thumping contemporary musical introduction with interludes from Mozart, Vivaldi, and Grieg played by the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra.

In a sea of dark suits punctuated by an occasional red jacket, more than 500 gathered to hear Joachim Erwin, Lord Mayor of Düsseldorf; Wolfgang Clement, Federal Minister for Economics and Labor of Germany; and Albrecht Bolza Schünemann, President of drupa 2004, open this year's trade fair.

I love wearing red!

His Honor, Lord Mayor Erwin, welcomed members of the state and federal parliament and visitors from five continents to the Olympics of Print. While drupa coincides with the summer Olympics, the location never changes; drupa is always in Düsseldorf, and will be held next May 29 through June 11, 2008.

For more than 50 years, since 1951, drupa has been continually reinvented to showcase the latest technological developments. drupa 2004 is the largest yet, and will attract more than two hundred thousand international visitors to Düsseldorf.

Germany  like the US and Canada  is in the middle of a slow economic recovery for the print industry. But the prospects for the future are good.

Get the Red (Tape) Out

The Federal Minister for Economics and Labor, Wolfgang Clement, focused his comments on the economic atmosphere of both the industry and the country at large. The world economy has been difficult the past few years, and Germany has seen a three-year stagnation, much like North America, including a loss of jobs in the print and paper industry.

Germany depends on high tech to add productivity to improve productivity and reach new markets. There are more than 45 million jobs in the print industry, a number that has not been recognized sufficiently. Unfortunately economic growth in Germany has been flat since as early as the 1970s, and as a result companies have not invested in the future.

The general consensus is that bureaucracy needs to be reduced and red tape needs to be cut. In fact there are more than 97,000 people in labor administration who are not involved in the actual placement of people in jobs. Just this week, there were cabinet meetings where more than 30 projects were adopted to cut back on red tape.

While the Minister spoke German (translated instantly into English for those of us who are linguistically challenged) the words he used, talking of reforms and consolidation of Social Security, could have been spoken by any US government official.

The fair is open!

Albrecht Bolza Schünemann, President of drupa , also clarified that the color red is the drupa color  not his political statement!

Since 2000, the world has changed profoundly and the old Europe faces serious problems. Schünemann equated the recent global changes to a second Constantinople where a new empire from the east, with Constantinople as the capital, overtook the old Roman Empire as it declined. The addition of new Eastern European countries to the EU has pulled the Union to the east. The new total Europe now emerging offers incredible economic opportunities. Who could have predicted the importance of the Islamic and Arab worlds? Or the growth of China?

Schünemann called for a return to old-fashioned ethics such as credibility, diligence, reliability. He acknowledged that Germany, as a country with high labor costs, must work to bring down those costs to keep its standing in the international community. He encouraged the print industry to constantly redefine itself and provide cross media solutions for the communication industry. It is the right time to look forward with optimism.