Wetzlar is a business location with a long tradition. Because it was located on a historic European trade route, Wetzlar began early with industrialization. When two railroad lines were completed in 1862, Wetzlar gained access to both raw materials and new export markets. By the turn of the century, Wetzlar developed into a center for the iron ore industry and later for the optical industry.
Today, Wetzlar is home to numerous companies in the metalworking, mechanical engineering, optical and precision engineering sectors. Many are solid mid-sized companies, but Wetzlar is also home to global players, such as Leica Microsystems, Leica Camera, Bosch Thermotechnik, Buderus Edelstahl, Carl Zeiss Sports Optics and Continental Automotive.
Wetzlar is perhaps best known as the City of Optics. The origins trace back to 1849 when Carl Kellner founded the "Optics Institute" in the historic city center. The Institute was later acquired by Ernst Leitz. Under the brand name Leica, the world's first 35 mm camera was introduced in 1924. In subsequent years, numerous companies were established in the area of optics, electronics and precision engineering. One of the most important developments in recent years is the conversion of the former German military base at Spilburg into a modern technology park and office complex.