A turning point towards a bright future

As Austrian poet Erich Fried once wrote on the subject of change: “People who want the world to remain as it is do not want it to remain at all.” He died in 1988, at a time of great political, social and economic upheaval. Probably the most significant watershed moment of this period was the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 – a symbol of the end of the political and economic divide between Eastern and Western Europe.

The Berndorf works were also undergoing major changes. As the new general manager, businessman Norbert Zimmermann was tasked with rescuing the ailing Berndorfer Metallwaren Ges.m.b.H. by salvaging any viable parts of the business. He set about implementing a plan for reorganising the company which included the creation of separate companies for each product group. This led to the formation of firms including Berndorf Band, Berndorf Metall- und Bäderbau and Berndorf Besteck und Tafelgeräte. Many employees opposed the changes and feared the end of the road for Berndorf’s historic manufacturer. 1,500 people bearing banners and placards took to the streets of Berndorf in protest.

The company’s management stood firm and asserted their belief in the strategy they had formulated with an audacious plan: in 1988 Norbert Zimmermann and nine other senior executives completed the first management buy-out in the history of Austrian nationalised industry. These ten pioneers purchased the company from state-owned AMAG to bring Berndorf back into the private sector, financing the deal with a combination of their own capital and loans.

Workers were buoyed by the faith that management had shown in the company and a year later 106 employees had become shareholders. For the first time since 1945 Berndorf AG was a private company. In 1989 as Lower Austria’s annual provincial exhibition, held in neighbouring Pottenstein, was exploring the “spirit of industry” through history, solid foundations for the company’s future were being laid, spurred on by a renaissance of industrial spirit in Berndorf.

The business began to recover in tandem with a thriving new corporate culture. Crowds of Berndorfers took to their feet once again in 1993, but this time to welcome a group of prominent guests led by the Chancellor of Austria, Franz Vranitzky. At the 150th anniversary celebrations of the Berndorf works people were looking ahead to a bright future.

Science and technology in this time

1990: Hubble Space Telescope, USA

1991: First offshore wind farm – Vindeby, off the south-east coast of Denmark

1991: Cosmonaut Franz Viehböck – later to become a member of Berndorf AG’s management board – becomes the first (and still the only) Austrian to travel into outer space, on board Soyuz TM-12 as part of the Austro-Soviet Austromir 91 space mission to the Mir space station, were he spends almost eight days.

1991: Official launch of the World Wide Web, with a Usenet post by Tim Berners-Lee

1991: First global digital mobile network, the Global System for Mobile Communications, enters operation

1994: Smartphone (IBM Simon Personal Communicator) – BellSouth and IBM, USA

Ansprachen zum 150 Jahre Jubiläum