Teplice (50,000 inhabitants) is situated in the north-west Czechia, in a region which experienced intensive industrialisation and urbanisation during the 19th and 20th century. However, before that Teplice established its worldwide reputation as a spa town.
Economic importance of the town grew not only due to health care and recreation services development but also due to its economic integration in a larger urban agglomeration with extensive lignite deposits and related industries. Teplice profited also from its proximity to Saxony – one of the core of industrial revolution on the European continent. Thus, before the WWII there was a very intensive economic interaction between north-west Czechia and Saxony as this part of Czechia was dominantly populated by German inhabitants so there was no language barrier for the everyday communication of enterprises across the border. Local people were employed in lignite mining situated in the proximity of Teplice whereas local enterprises focused mostly on ceramic and glass production and non-ferrous metallurgy. Relatively rapid economic and population growth was interrupted by the expulsion of the German population of the town after the WWII. This caused not only the post-war population decline but also permanent interruption of established business interactions between firms located in Czechia and in Germany. During the socialist period, all local enterprises (including spa facilities) were nationalised and their production was re-oriented to eastern markets of the member countries of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance.
Economic restructuring under the new neo-liberal regime since the 1990s has caused significant changes in the regional economy. Economic importance of mining and heavy industry decreased rapidly in the region and as result unemployment growth was registered up to 17% in 2003 (the national average was 10%). However, since then Teplice has showed the fastest dynamics of unemployment rate reduction (6.4% in 2017) in comparison with other towns in the region.
The key economic sectors in Teplice have undergone relatively successful economic transformation. National enterprises have been privatized and internationalized. Foreign investors take advantage of the well-qualified and cheap labour force of former glass and ceramic factories. Belgium-based company AGC Glass Europe acquired former glass factory and today it is the largest producer of flat glass in the Central Europe and the largest local employer. The company operates in the city its own high school and supports local first-division football club. AGC was not the only Belgian investor which acquired local companies – another traditional producer of ceramic products was privatised by Ideal Standard Europe in 1992.
During the post-socialist period the importance of local spa facilities (privatised at the beginning of the 1990s) increased and got international reputation again. Their contribution to local prosperity might be measured not only in terms of employment and related economic activities in tourism but also due to their positive influence on local image and cultural capital (Teplice is the seat of the only philharmonic orchestra in the region). Teplice spa is very frequently visited by Arab clientele which has invested much in local real estate. On the other hand, their activities are perceived contradictory by local people partly due to some prejudices stemming from intercultural differences.
Old industrial and especially spa buildings have some potential for future use, but their capacity exceeds or misses local demand. Therefore some (even spa) brownfields could be found in the town. Local entrepreneurial activity does not only depend on the above-mentioned large transnational enterprises, but it is a broad mixture of companies of different size. The number of businesses per capita in Teplice is the highest in comparison with other cities throughout the region.
Local institutional arrangement is very special due to its very stable local government. Since 1994 the town has been controlled by local conservative party with the same mayor until 2018. While a large proportion of citizens sympathize with political leaders, others consider their long-term local engagement to be the major lock-in constraining development of the town.
Today, the city is formed by an interesting mosaic of new, socialist and old industrial buildings, majestic spa houses and other historical buildings and socialist pre-fabricated housing estates. All this is complemented by newly emerging complexes of housing units, hotels and malls and service centres.