Podkarpackie was presented to business leaders – potential investors for the region. Recent years have seen the region become increasingly attractive for potential new investors. Which factors do you consider to have the greatest impact in terms of enhancing Podkarpacie’s competitive advantage from the viewpoint of the potential investor?
Podkarpackie has increased significantly its competitiveness. The main factors that have contributed to this improvement have been improved transport accessibility, availability of highly trained personnel and the availability of well-prepared investment areas.
But the real competitive advantage of the region has been created by the aviation industry. This sector has become our region’s undisputed specialisation; 90% of the Poland’s potential in the aerospace sector is concentrated in the Aviation Valley. Products from Podkarpackie are found in airliners made all by the major manufacturers, as well as in many military aircraft. In addition, the region is also strong in the area of light and ultralight aviation. The aerospace industry is supported by a system of vocational and higher education and by specialised research units.
There is a stereotype that Podkarpackie is dominated by North American capital, although the presence of other companies from other parts of the world is also present. This issue of Contact Magazine Online is devoted to the 25th anniversary of the presence of UK investment in Poland. What would you say to potential British investors, who are considering starting operations here?
Podkarpackie’s economy has been significantly boosted by inward investment from abroad. British investors are also present in our region – companies such as Aerogistics, McBraida, R & R Ice Cream, YASA Motors or Drummonds Architectural Antiques,. The presence of these companies in the Podkarpackie and the increasing turnover in trade between our region and the UK is proof that it’s worth investing with us.
Investors in Poland have been typically locating in the largest agglomerations such as Warsaw, Katowice, Kraków or Wrocław, which have developed into massive shared service centre and business process outsourcing (SSC/BPO) hubs. But investors are starting to look at Poland’s smaller cities, which also boast good educational establishments, but where there’s less competition for skills. What factors can influence potential investors to start their search by looking at Rzeszow?
Podkarpacie encourages investors to locate their in our region by highlighting the availability of well-prepared investment sites, its special economic zones, business incubators and our Science and Technology Park, which offer investors favourable conditions for doing business.
Also important is the availability of highly trained managers and technical staff especially in aerospace, electrical engineering, chemicals and IT sectors. Rzeszów University of Technology is the largest technical university in south-eastern Polish, which has a training centre for civil aviation pilots with the longest tradition in the country. And, as said, improved accessibility of the region, mainly due to Rzeszów’s rapidly growing international airport at Jasionka and the A4 motorway, which will soon run uninterrupted from the German border to the Ukrainian border.
British investors say that in Poland you can find high-class specialists and engineers with a Master’s degree, but it’s much harder to find workers for the factory floor. What’s the skills situation like in Podkarpacie – what are you doing to provide support programmes for vocational training?
Over the years, vocational schools did not enjoy the best opinion, but this is slowly changing. We are actively Improving the conditions of education, cooperation with businesses and new infrastructure to attract more young people to vocational schools. This is especially important due to the manufacturing-led profile of our economy. In Podkarpackie, we have completed a number of projects aimed at supporting vocational training, adapting them to the needs of the regional and local labour markets.
One of the most important projects to support vocational education was to create a network of Regional Centres of Modern Manufacturing Technology Transfer in 12 cities across our region. Thanks to these activities, the region developed innovative technical laboratories equipped with latest equipment and software used for hands-on training that replicates conditions in advanced manufacturing facilities. This lets us train young people in occupations which are in demand on the regional labour market. Good cooperation between vocational education institutions and businesses is an extremely important factor in our continuing ability to attract advanced manufacturers to Podkarpacie.
How do you see the role of local government in shaping the region's economic potential?
The regional government is the entity responsible for creating and promoting the economic development of the region. Therefore it should initiate and coordinate activities in this area. In doing so, cooperation between local government and business is important. Support offered by local government to business should coincide with business’s expectations.
This cooperation is important to the economic promotion of the region. This year, the regional government launched a project funded by the Podkarpackie Regional Operational Programme for 2014-2020 to promote the region’s economy. The project consists of a series of activities aimed at strengthening the economic potential of the region and promoting businesses from the region, including participation in fairs, organising trade missions, study visits and other events for information and promotion.
In 2014, the BPCC launched a support programme for Polish manufacturers that want to enter the UK market. On the British side we note the considerable demand for quality Polish regional food and drink products, such as cheese, honey, juices, confectionery. How do you characterise Podkarpackie’s potential in the food industry?
The agri-food industry has always played an important role in the region’s economy. Due to our rich traditions and our clean natural environment, Podkarpackie has great potential especially in the field of traditional products, especially the regional and organic ones.
Currently, we are the leader among Polish regions in terms of the number of designated traditional products - a UNESCO project carried out by Poland’s agriculture ministry – we have more than 200 such products registered. In recent years, there has been intensive development of organic farming. Podkarpackie boasts a network of rapidly-growing organic farms. We organise Ekogala – the International Organic Food Fair, to which we cordially invite visitors from the UK.
The Polish economy is at a crossroads; it faces the challenge of how to escape the ‘middle income’ trap – making and doing things cheaper for other nations, because of our lower labour costs in manufacturing and services. Poland needs to become a strategic economy, where our know-how creates completely new technologies that can conquer the world. What is your thinking in this area? What is Podkarpacie’s local government doing to stimulate the development of indigenous technology companies?
To build a truly innovative and competitive economy, we must strengthen research and innovation, and improve the transfer of knowledge between the public and private sectors. Investment should focus on efforts to commercialise and implement the results of R&D and innovation, creating higher valued-added and increasing efficiency, and to expand and internationalise these activities.
This is a priority of regional authorities, reflected in the Regional Operational Programme for Podkarpackie 2014-2020. This is the main instrument through which the regional government can affect the development of a truly innovative economy in the region. One of the objectives of the ROP is the growth of innovative enterprises, which as in the previous programme, is reflected in the programme’s first axis, Competitive and Innovative Economy.
How do clusters function in Podkarpackie?
Podkarpackie’s local government is dedicated to clusters. It remains part of a broader policy for building a competitive, knowledge-based economy for the region. Podkarpackie’s management board is aware of the significant impact that cluster initiatives have on economic development at the regional level, and this is reflected in the intensified cooperation between enterprises, R&D and business organisations. Clusters in a particularly strong may contribute to the flowering of the key industries of Podkarpackie.
It’s no exaggeration to call Podkarpackie ‘the cradle of Polish clusters’. It is here, more than 11 years ago, that Poland’s most famous, the most rapidly developing cluster, Aviation Valley, was set up. Cooperation between the regional authorities and the cluster has resulted in many projects in the area of R&D, education and business promotion. The Aviation Valley project has become the blueprint for the region’s authorities to develop clusters for other industries. The aerospace cluster’s model of cooperation is being across other important industries for the region. Podkarpackie’s clusters have a proven ally in the regional government, and can count on its efforts to support ongoing initiatives and planned projects.
Infrastructure in Podkarpackie has improved vastly. Fast rail connections, new stretches of the A4 motorway, the airport in Rzeszow. What further plans are there for improving Podkarpacie’s transport links with the main European routes?
It’s worth talking about the Via Carpatia. Rapid, reliable connections within the Europe’s transport routes are essential for economic development. All regions through which this road passes treat it as part of their development plan and an opportunity for economic growth. Along the Via Carpatia, logistics centres and trans-shipment companies will spring up. The positive effects of infrastructure-driven development is most visible in the poorest regions of the EU, which also includes Podkarpackie. The Via Carpatia will become a counterweight to the main European east-west routes in Germany, where it’s today the main North-South movement.
The road will improve the availability of tourist Bieszczady and Beskid Niski, which is the biggest tourist attraction of the region.
An unexpected element influencing the increased importance of the road may be China’s plans for the reactivation of the commercial Silk Road. Via Carpatia can also be linked with an arm that will continue all the way into Central Asia and beyond into China.
Podkarpacie has immense tourism potential. What are you doing to develop this?
This region is famed for its hospitality. Our tradition of multiculturalism means that region is open and friendly. Over the centuries, Podkarpackie has absorbed different cultures, religions and traditions of teaching respect for other values. It’s also worth mentioning the great regional cuisine, based on the mixing of different cultures and traditions, as well as the high quality of the natural ingredients from which the dishes are prepared.
Each year, the region attracts more and more tourists, including ones from abroad. The promotional activities carried out by Podkarpackie’s government certainly helps. The Podkarpackie Regional Tourist Organisation’s website portrays the region’s attractions. We are also active in organising study tours for foreign journalists and tour operators, and we take part in international tourism fairs. Last November, we were present at the World Travel Market in London to promote Podkarpackie.