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The Warsaw Voice » Other » December 19, 2007
The Silesia Voice
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Jaworzno's Recipe for Success
December 19, 2007   
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Zbigniew Powroźnik, chairman of the board of the Local Development Agency in Jaworzno, talks to Ewa Lipa.

What was the idea behind the decision to establish the Local Development Agency in Jaworzno?

The direct reason for founding the Local Development Agency in Jaworzno were new environmental protection standards. Rigorous rules got the city's economic administration worried in the 1990s. They looked for solutions-mainly involving investment projects, which is what was adopted for the mining and energy sectors. The idea to set up the agency was suggested by Andrzej Lipko, the deputy minister of industry and trade at the time.

The idea was supported by people with an unconventional approach, with professional qualifications and a modern outlook on the world. Trade unionists, power engineers, miners got involved. After a lot of persistent work, thanks to support from the leading figures of the Jaworzno III Power Plant and the city administration, the agency was registered in the fall of 1993.

This was the first joint-stock company in the city, with a population of 100,000. The entire company could be fitted into one briefcase. The first board meeting was held in the corridor of the Polish Federation of Engineering Associations (NOT) building.

What does the agency deal with today?

We have several fields of operation. One of the oldest is the training center, opened in 1995, registered with the education department of the Province Office, and holding an ISO certificate covering its operations. We train people who apply for courses themselves, but also on commission from labor offices and large companies whose employees need to upgrade their skills continually. The offered range includes courses for electricians, work health and safety workers, forklift truck operators, welders, HACCP courses, language courses, and more. We provide some of the courses in specialized workshops. The other ones are held in a building at 275 Grunwaldzka St. that is fitted with state-of-the-art training infrastructure.

We provide business and legal advice in a number of ways. First, we offer free advice at our consultation point as part of the national network of services for the SME sector. We are implementing a project under a contract with the Polish Agency for Enterprise Development (PARP) and we hope to continue it thanks to the good reputation our work has. We also offer paid consultations to entrepreneurs who come to us with new projects and ideas for investment subsidies. If the amount of work needed to prepare the documentation substantially exceeds the framework of free advice, we sign an individual contract with the entrepreneur. Many local companies have already taken advantage of our services.

People from the business community have gotten used to our constant presence in Jaworzno's economic life. Following many years of cooperation, they trust us, and I'm sure this will continue. Of course, the greatest challenge today is the effective management of European Union funding. Preparing projects for the European Social Fund is the task of our research and development department.

To sum up, we concentrate on serving companies-from training, through business advice, to helping with applications for EU assistance. The main target group of these activities are small and medium-sized enterprises, but at present we are working intensively in several areas for large companies as well, such as the Południowy Koncern Energetyczny group.

Is it just about business? How does your agency influence Jaworzno as a community?

Some of our work is addressed directly to the local community. An increasing number of the tasks we deal with involve projects financed from the European Social Fund. They require good organization, efficiency and specialist facilities, not only to get started but also to implement and monitor the effects of a project. To this aim, we have set up a team of specialists who are very good at this.

Generally speaking, these are activities involving employment and social exclusion; they are targeted at the jobless, people who have been socially excluded, the disabled, the helpless, or women who have been out of a job for a long time. We have completed eight such projects in the past two years.

Thanks to these projects, funds have flowed to the city, so we can speak of measurable effects and indices. We can say how many people found jobs, set up their own business or acquired new skills, thus improving their functioning in life, in the new economic reality. After these projects, the city also has greater appreciation for our activity, and we feel that our credibility as the city's partner in various joint projects has grown as a result.

Recent years have been a time of rapid change and economic growth. What are your plans for the future?

The bold idea of the local industrial park marks a new chapter in the agency's operations and a new area of cooperation, as the city is the main partner of this project. Of course, the park had to be adapted to local conditions.

We have managed to work out an original model of cooperation. Together with the city we have obtained funds for a project entitled "Infrastructure Investment in the Jaworzno Industrial Park." Implementation of this project has just ended. The result is a state-of-the-art facility, a service center for businesses on an area once occupied by the Jan Kanty Mine as well as transport and media infrastructure near the A4 freeway, around the Węzeł Jeleński hub. The first two plots from the area made available have just been successfully sold. In one of the complexes of the industrial park we are implementing a project involving reclamation of mining slag heaps, which will take at least two years to complete. The planned result is 60 hectares of reclaimed land, of which about two-thirds will be offered for investment projects.

By Jan. 4 we will have submitted another 15 pilot projects to be financed from EU funds. We hope several of them will reach the implementation stage. A new period of programming is a huge challenge, as there is great competition to secure the large amount of available EU funding. However, I am confident that our experience to date and our professionalism will serve us well in this tough competition.
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