The town of Děčín (49,000 inhabitants) is situated in the north Czechia near the border with Germany. Its specific location along the historical merchant route between Prague and Saxony in the Elbe river valey was later reinforced by the construction of railway connecting Prague with Dresden and Berlin and river port with transshipment point.
However, Děčín was not only an important transport hub, it itself became an important industrial core during the 19th and 20th century with relatively diverse economy combining metallurgy, engineering (including shipbuilding), and later electrical engineering and other industries. Similarly as in Teplice, Děčín profited from its proximity to Saxony – one of the core of industrial revolution on the European continent. Thus, before the WWII economic interaction between north-west Czechia and Saxony was very strong as this part of Czechia was dominantly populated by German inhabitants so there was no language barrier in the everyday communication of enterprises across the border. Rapid generation of new jobs in manufacturing and transportation enabled population growth which was interrupted by the expulsion of the dominant German population after the WWII. This event also irreversibly interrupted established business interactions between Czechia and Germany.
At the beginning of the socialist era local enterprises were nationalized and re-orientated to the Czechoslovak and eastern markets. The importance of local industry (mainly machinery and electrical engineering) was artificially prolonged by the communist regime until the end 1980s. This reinforced urbanisation process and following construction of new prefabricated housing estates which had changed the physical structure of the town at the expense of old historical buildings.
Post-socialist economic restructuring and related changes caused retreat of some traditional companies (especially in electrical engineering, transportation and shipbuilding) and high job loss especially in manufacturing. Unemployment rate growth was reported with its peak in 2003 (15%) and the residential attractiveness of the town for well-qualified people decreased. Moreover, low property prices increased the problem of social exclusion in the town.
However, some positive processes can be identified in the town. Today, the unemployment rate is much lower (4.7% in March 2019 – slightly above the national level which was 3%). This positive change has been caused by increased local entrepreneurial activity and also by foreign direct investment of western transnational companies. Constellium Extrusions Děčín is currently the key local employer with largest integrated hard alloy facility in Europe which currently expands with new production facilities in Děčín. Chart Ferox Děčín, the second largest employer, produces equipment for the cryogenic storage and distributes liquefied gases. The company has its own research and development division in Děčín employing well-qualified people from the region.
The importance of Děčín as a transport hub has been declining in recent years and this trend will probably continue in the future. New motorway from Prague to Dresden pass the city as well as the planned high-speed railway connecting both cities. Despite this fact, Děčín has another advantage resulting from its location – it is situated in a very attractive landscape of Elbe river valley enclosed by fascinating sandstone rocks. From this point of view Děčín could be considered as a gateway to Protected Landscape Area Elbe Sandstones and National Park Bohemian Switzerland and therefore it has been slowly changing its image from the industrial to the recreation town. Such change has been significantly supported by the local government which has invested massively in the reconstruction of the local landmark – Děčín chateau – and its transformation from a former Soviet military base to a museum.