URBAN STUDIES
7 March 2019

URBAN STUDIES
Prof. Heike Mayer

“My research examines the economic transformation of small and medium-sized towns. I am interested in such places because they play an important role in polycentric urban systems and we need to understand their economies and the implications of their transformation for policies related to economic development and urban planning.”

Heike Mayer, 45, professor of economic geography in the Institute of Geography at the University of Bern in Switzerland and an adjunct professor in urban affairs and planning at Virginia Tech in the United States. Additionally, she is a member of the Center for Regional Economic Development (CRED) at the University of Bern. Bern, February 2018
Entrance of Prof. Heike Mayer’s office at the University of Bern. Bern, January 2018
A large majority of small and medium-sized towns in Switzerland specialize in the residential economy. The residential economy includes economic activities that serve local or regional markets. The town's residents consume these products and services. New housing attracts more inhabitants, who in turn are consumers buying products for their everyday needs. Bulle, January 2018
Abstract artwork and map of the city of Portland, Oregon, USA where Heike Mayer studied for her Ph.D. from 1997 to 2003. Portland`s economy specializes in high-tech and Heike examined the evolution of Portland as a secondary high tech region. Bern, January 2018
Planners in Thun discuss the town's development potentials. Here, planners utilize insights from the research project on small and medium-sized towns to help them understand recent trends in economic development. Thun, January 2018
Research and development intensive industries, so called high tech industries, create economic value through their exports. They require highly educated employees and they need to develop networks to larger cities. As a result, these high tech towns are well connected to places that function as global nodes, such as Zurich. Rychiger AG, Steffisburg, January 2018
Small and medium sized towns in Switzerland are quite heterogeneous and specialize in different industries. Towns can specialize in high tech or low tech industries. This is a typical view of a low tech town. Low tech industries encompass firms that produce inputs for other industries (e.g. metal fabrication) or traditional products (e.g. furniture, textiles, etc.). Belp, February 2018
Iron pieces at a cable hoist company. Founded in Thun in 1943, this company sells the hoists worldwide. Swiss small and medium sized towns are still competitive primarily because they develop and produce high-quality products. Habegger Maschinenfabrik AG, Thun, January 2018
What is economic geography? Through fieldwork such as company visits and interviews, the scientists collect data about the ways firms develop, produce and market their products. Rahel Meili, Heike Mayer’s doctoral student, and herself are interested in questions related to the ways in which firms are embedded in their regional context. Habegger Maschinenfabrik AG, Thun, January 2018
New apartment buildings under construction in the center of Bulle. The town has undergone significant demographic changes over the past two decades. Today, Bulle is mainly home to a commuting population that pays taxes and rents with their salaries earned in other towns or cities. Bulle, January 2018
Identical houses sold in bulk at the periphery of Bulle. The location is ideal for commuters who will work in other urban centres. Bulle benefits from its proximity to Fribourg and Lausanne. Bulle, February 2018
At the end of a working day, commuters are coming back to Bulle. Small and medium-sized towns near larger cities show strong connections through, for example, commuting patterns. Bulle, February 2018