Chris Burns travels across Poland to look at why both international and local businesses are investing heavily in the country.
Poland is a major destination for foreign direct investment in the European Union. International companies say that is thanks to a skilled labour force, lower production costs, and a business-friendly environment.
But what about Polish companies?
In the southeastern city of Lublin, the firm Ursus builds both buses and tractors for the domestic as well as the international market. With 1000 employees, the company produces about 6000 tractors a year, and 100 buses for Poland alone, nearly all of them electric. Export destinations include countries in Europe and Africa.
Ursus’ Vice-President Monika Kosko says one of the company’s latest models is a bus that runs on hydrogen, with other prototypes in the works.
“It’s a big innovation. We have in our portfolio electric buses, and trolley buses and traditional buses too.”
The firm also makes tractors.
“Last year we signed a contract in Zambia, for 100 million dollars. Our strategy is to produce the durable, reliable tractors, with lower cost of maintenance and lower cost of spare parts,” Kosko says.
Located in the city of Mielec is Poland’s so-called Aviation Valley. It’s been the centre of Poland’s aircraft production for more than 80 years. The company by the same name has been bought by Lockheed-Martin’s Sikorsky subsidiary, combining Polish and American knowhow. With about 1800 employees, it’s one of a number of international companies who have invested here.
Vice President James Katzen explains why the company invested in the region.
“So Aviation Valley dates back to the late 1930s, when the Polish government decided to put its aerospace industry in this region of Poland. And that’s continued today, where we have more than 150 different companies that are related into the aerospace industry. So our factory currently employs almost 1,800 employees, supported by several hundred local suppliers. We’re very excited. We continue to see positive economic growth in Poland. The aerospace industry continues to grow, both on the commercial and the military side.”
Back in Warsaw, it is possible to find out more about how Poland is reaching out to attract more investment, as well as to boost exports. With 30 offices around the world, the Polish Investment and Trade Agency plans to more than double that to 70 by the end of the year.
Wojciech Fedko, Vice President of the Polish Investment and Trade Agency explains: “We do have quite a few things that historically Poland has always excelled in. That’s machinery, a lot of electrical equipment. So the old economy, as well as very new economy. That’s IT, ICT, soft, and a lot of gaming products that we have successfully marketed over the past few years. Our mandate now is to encourage a lot more companies in Poland to do that. Small-medium enterprise, rather medium by Polish standards than small, however that is our push. We’re working very hard as an implementation arm of the Ministry of Economic Development, that has instituted a one-stop shop concept. The Polish Investment and Trade Agency is the distribution channel of all of the government’s incentives as well as a lot of the financing products for foreign direct investment in Poland. So this is our new integrated approach.”
Another example of Polish exports is in the IT sector. JCommerce is an IT consulting and software development company, expanding operations both in Poland and abroad to provide IT solutions to a wide range of clients.
Its CEO Piotr Zygula is a marathon man. He explains the competitive advantages Poland offers compared to other parts of the world, like India.
“We are talking about quality. We are talking about being, especially for our European customers, being in the European Union, being in the heart of Europe, very well connected with our “iPros” that we have, and cheap flights, even.”
Another startup – this one in finance – has also combined both local and international knowhow. In the same skyscraper as Goldman Sachs, a young Norwegian has moved in with a company that connects consumers with lenders around the world.
Euronews, Chris Burns: Why is it good to locate here for this labour pool here?
“It has really paid off because, ultimately of course, Brexit has had kind of an impact, and it’s currently having an impact, a lot of Poles actually coming back from the UK, and coming back from other European countries. There’s a huge talent pool of people who have grown up here. They have of course the Polish culture, but they’ve also been abroad. Poland is really encouraging international businesses to come here to set up, and making it fairly easy.”