After an introduction and welcome from the BPCC’s CEO Paweł Siwecki, a panel discussion opened the evening, with a chance to hear about how the local economy is emerging from recession.
James Hughes, minister-counsellor, economic affairs at the British Embassy, was joined on the panel by Tomasz Buras, CEO of Savills, and Sebastian Smołucha, senior manager at Michael Page. Guests heard how the Kraków economy is booming because of new inbound foreign investments, primarily in shared-service and business-process-outsourcing centres. Mr Smołucha said that Michael Page has had two record quarters in terms of numbers of people recruited. This is mirrored by demand for office space, remote work notwithstanding, said Mr Buras, who added that although Kraków is not a logistics hotspot, some new warehouse space along the A4 motorway corridor and in the city centre is being developed. There was concern that salary increases and inflation may make the local economy uncompetitive, although the high quality of people may still prove attractive to investors even as wages equalise with the West. New investments are coming in from the US, UK and Germany, with a strong focus on IT jobs, said Mr Smołucha. Mr Buras talked about the future of office space, with a shift toward some form of hybrid work (three days in the office, two days working from home). Demand for employees means that office space has to be more appealing.
James Hughes spoke about the UK-Polish economic relationship, pointing out that UK investors in Poland are still expressing strong sentiment about the Polish market, with the majority still looking to increase their investments. Mr Hughes reminded guests of the United Nations’ climate conference, COP26, in Glasgow in November, where innovation in sustainability would be an important theme. He also mentioned the relatively new phenomenon of Polish firms investing in the UK economy, in many cases businesses that sought to expand globally via the UK.
Kraków’s status as a location for global shared services and business process outsourcing is borne out by the fact that 18,000 foreigners now live and work in the city, according to its deputy mayor, said Mr Hughes. A new trend being observed is the clustering of legal process outsourcing in Kraków, said Mr Smołucha.
After the panel discussion, guests moved in to the lobby for food and wine, with a Pernod Ricard displaying a selection of finest single-malt whiskies; Scotland’s trade envoy to Poland, Martyn O’Reilly was on hand to explain the regional differences between the distilleries.
Discussions continued until late in the evening, the need to meet up and talk business having been bottled up for so long.