The south-eastern city of Rzeszów, associated with the aerospace sector, is taking on an urgent new role as staging post for the supply of Ukraine as the Russian invasion continues to take its toll.

The BPCC was instrumental is putting together an event, entitled Doing Business with the UK, held in Rzeszów’s Urban Lab space on 23 September.

Warehouse space is at a premium, as speakers from the mayor, Konrad Fijołek, to representatives of UK businesses located in the city, pointed out. Rzeszów, he said, had seen its population grow by 15% since 24 February, the result of Ukrainian refugees fleeing Russian aggression. Welcoming participants, the mayor said that the city’s key attractions for foreign investors are the large number of students (a fifth of the population), Rzeszów’s demographics (it’s one of only two Polish cities not forecast to shrink by 2050) and its strategic location, 90km from both the Slovakian and Ukrainian borders, with excellent transport links. The city also offers a high quality of life, being a “ten-minute city” where all facilities are within walking distance, while being surrounded by beautiful scenic countryside.

This event, hosted by the city of Rzeszów, focused on trade and investment between the UK and Poland. After an introductory speech about the current state of Polish-UK economic relations from the BPCC’s chief advisor Michael Dembinski, there was an opportunity to hear from two UK-based manufacturers who had set up operations in Rzeszów, both BPCC members. McBraida, represented by Mariusz Małachowski, manufactures parts for aero engines, machined from specialist materials such as composites and carbon fibre, whilst Poeton, represented by Marcin Gerlik, carries out plating and anodising of aircraft parts. Both companies’ HQs are in the south-west of England; both are family-owned businesses, Poeton being over 120 years old, and run by the fourth generation; McBraida is nearly 110 and run by the third generation. Both firms chose Rzeszów for the city’s location as the heart of Poland’s booming aerospace sector (‘Aviation Valley’). As a result of their investments, both companies have significantly expanded their customer base. The third UK case-study is a newcomer, Derby Ingredients, a food-sector firm trading in nuts and dried fruit, that sees nearly two-thirds of all its sales going to EU markets, which was represented by Justyna Chmiel. As such, Brexit had made it harder to trade across the continent, so Rzeszów made sense, again for location reasons.

After a networking coffee break, there were two presentations from Grant Thornton, with Małgorzata Samborska explaining the tax incentives offered to firms looking to expand abroad, and Karol Guździał giving practical advice about agreements with foreign investors. Jakub Makurat, country manager of Ebury, talked through the foreign exchange risks that accompanied business conducted between Poland and the UK, and how to mitigate them.

A panel discussion moderated by Michael Dembinski, featured Derby Ingredients’ Justyna Chmiel, Grant Thornton’s Jolanta Zarzecka-Sawicka, Aneta Milewska from game developer G2A.com and Przemysław Stolarz from the city of Rzeszów, and focused on the challenges facing HR departments in the city, in particular working from home, cross-border remote work and availability of office space.

The event shows the importance of the city to the Polish economy, and the importance of manufacturing and logistics to the city – it is clear that a BPCC return to Rzeszów is due soon!