The debate with the participation of representatives of the business world, entrepreneurs, investors, universities, the provincial marshal’s office of the Podkarpacie region, Rzeszów’s city hall, the Aviation Valley Association and the special economic zones, took place on 16 March 2017 at the Rzeszów Hotel. The event was organised in cooperation with the BPCC regional member companies such as K&K Selekt Human Resources Consulting and consultants Roedl &Partner, the event’s content partner.
The conference was opened by Urszula Kwaśniewska, the BPCC’s regional director. Welcoming the guests, she discussed the main objectives of the BPCC and underlined the chamber’s intentions to intensify its activities in Podkarpacie. Referring to a recent study drawn up by the Polish Investment and Trade Agancy (PAIH), she emphasised the attractiveness and high growth potential of Poland, with a particular focus on Podkarpacie.
Michael Dembinski briefly discussed a report entitled The Impact on Foreign Direct Investment – Contribution to the Polish Economy in the past quarter century, prepared by Polityka Insight in cooperation with 14 bilateral chambers of commerce operating in Poland. According to the report, British investors are ranked fourth in terms of the size of FDI in Poland – 6.2% of all FDI. Over the past 25 years, the value of FDI in Poland has exceeded 712 billion złotys. Adopting robust assumptions about the struc¬ture of the growth of the wage fund in the econo¬my, it was determined that wages are now about 8.9% and employment approximately 8.5% – higher than they would have been if the value of FDI remained at the 1990 level.
Mr Dembinski referred to high demand for Polish products in the UK, Poland’s second largest export market after Germany, and the fact that in the UK are nearly 30.000 company owners from Poland, fifth in the ranking of countries of origin of foreign entrepreneurs in the UK. After the Brexit vote the pound sterling fell - and that would affect the trade dynamics between Poland and the UK. In the long term, however, he said that he saw Brexit changing rather than stopping short economic relations between the UK and Poland. “Polish firms with global ambitions – or simply those interested in the UK as a market of 65m consumers – will continue to move to the UK, an excellent springboard from which to enter the markets of North and South America, the Middle East and Africa and the Far East. On the other hand, UK firms not wishing to lose access to the single European market should consider investing in Poland so as to retail a foothold in the EU.
The next presentation was given by Marcin Dojnik, senior specialist, Investor and Exporter Service Centre (COIE). He outlined all support services and funds available for foreign investors and underlined the importance of cooperation between clusters and business support organisations, including BPCC. Mr Dojnik discussed a service path of potential investors, starting from initial information on the market and a company’s potential, through a presentation of particular offers and incentives; organisation of meetings and fairs; and ending at on-going services for investors as well as monitoring of all activities. He also talked about the availability of EU and Polish funds for businesses looking to grow in the Podkarpacie region.
The second part of the conference was a discussion panel moderated by Mr Dembinski. The panelists included: Katarzyna Kordoń (K&K Selekt Human Resources Consulting), Mr Dojnik, Łukasz Szczygieł (Roedl&Partner), Andrzej Rybka (Aviation Valley Association) and Andrzej Ujda (Rolls-Royce). The discussion was joined by Paul Bennett, special project manager, of Poeton – a British investor that’s planning to open its production plant in Rzeszów. The company, specialising in functional coatings for the aerospace sector to combat of all types of wear and corrosion will create 2.000 jobs.
The discussion was introduced by Łukasz Szczygieł. He said that the main problem facing companies operating in Poland is unpredictability of legal regulations. The priority is to create a uniform and friendly legal environment. Additionally, he pointed to the need to change a mentality and a legal culture and to increase the openness toward honest taxpayers. Mr Dojnik added that high levels of bureaucracy can delay access to all necessary certificates and permits.
Further in the discussion, Mr Dembinski indicated the extent to which emigration of Poles to the UK affected high unemployment in Poland - in 2006 in Rzeszów, the BPCC organised a job fair for Poles who were looking to work in the UK, one of many the chamber organised at that time. “When Poland joined the EU and the UK opened its labour market to Poles, Poland had record high unemployment. Now, as the UK is looking to close its labour market to Poles, Poland has record low unemployment. Ms Kordoń noted that many of those experienced and qualified workers who moved to the UK could contribute to the labour market development in Podkarpacie.
Both Mr Szczygieł and Mr Ujda pointed to the high saturation of the labour market in Kraków (particularly in the SSC/BPO sector and IT services) where the employee can chose the employer, rather than the other way around. All the panellists noted with satisfaction that Rzeszów doesn’t face this problem yet. Ms Kordoń admitted that there’s still a low mobility of workers, whilst employees’ commitment to one employer remains high. At the same time she claims that there are major competence gaps in certain labour market sectors .
At the end of the debate, Mr Rybka on behalf of the Aviation Valley Association presented best practice in cooperating with universities that educate and train the future workforce for the requirements of the aviation sector. Given as an example Sędziszów Małopolski is populated by 7,000 people, of whom around 2,000 work in aviation industry. Mr Rybka also mentioned about a current trend - Industry 4.0 that enjoys the interest of machine manufacturers and end-users. He concluded that modern technologies and their application will be a lever that can be used to exploit the potential of the region.
The final speech, delivered by Paul Bennett and Aneta Cygan-Rzemińska (project manager, Poeton) was living proof that it is worth investing in Podkarpacie. The UK Midlands-based company is moving to Poland to be close to its clients. The event ended with lively talks and lunch.