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The Warsaw Voice » Other » December 19, 2007
THE SILESIA VOICE
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Well-Tried Development Patterns
December 19, 2007   
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In this era of a global economy, traditional promotion instruments are often insufficient to successfully encourage investors to step up their activities. Industrial and technological parks are becoming increasing popular as instruments designed to stimulate growth. There are more than 60 institutions of this kind in Poland today. Upper Silesia, with its industrial tradition, high urbanization, solid research capacity and a well-developed infrastructure, has the largest share of these facilities.

New development instrument

An industrial park is a complex of buildings and land with utilities left behind by a business that has been closed down or restructured. Industrial parks are set up under an agreement with the local government. The philosophy behind technological parks is the same, but their objective is to stimulate an exchange of knowledge and technology between research centers and businesses.

These new institutions, designed to support development across the European Union, receive assistance from public coffers. According to data from the Polish Ministry of the Economy, 82 such projects were approved for implementation in 2004-2006. Their total value exceeded zl.944 million, while support from both EU and national sources totaled zl.668 million.

Industrial and technological parks are supposed to create attractive conditions for both domestic and foreign investors, promote the startup of small and medium-sized businesses, and draw in new technology. On average, it takes from two to three years to carry out a project in an industrial or technological park.

Regions with the best conditions for new investment benefit the most from this form of economic stimulation. Paradoxically, areas with a post-industrial infrastructure that need redevelopment may offer additional opportunities. This is why the highly industrialized Silesia province in southern Poland is in the lead among the country's regions. Twenty-two projects worth a total of zl.299.8 million have already received support here.

Almost one-third of Poland's industrial and technological parks and business incubators, including those still under development, are located in Silesia province.

Silesia in the lead

As elsewhere in Poland, there are major differences among Silesia's industrial and technological parks and business incubators, resulting from different economic, social and cultural factors.

One of Poland's oldest institutions of this kind is the Upper Silesian Industrial Park, set up in 1995. In 2005, efforts got under way to create an industrial park on the site of the former Silesia steelworks in Katowice. As a result, this strongly degraded post-industrial site with waste heaps will be reclaimed to provide room for environment-friendly businesses. They will create new jobs and generate tax money for the local budget.

Another good example of this form of promotion is the Jaworzno Industrial Park. Jaworzno, a city with an area of 152.7 square kilometers and a population of 97,000, is located in the eastern part of Silesia province, close to where Upper Silesia borders on the Małopolska region.

Jaworzno has strong economic potential and attractive commercial plots. The Jaworzno Industrial Park was set up in 2004 on an area of 158 hectares under a contract signed by the municipality, Spółka Restrukturyzacji Kopalń SA in Katowice, Zakłady Chemiczne Organika-Azot SA in Jaworzno, and the Local Development Agency in Jaworzno. The park's mission is to enhance the city's competitive edge and create new jobs by stimulating local enterprise and attracting external investors. To lure prospective investors, the park strives to create a friendly investment climate and attractive conditions for business operations.

The Silesian Industrial Park is located in the cities of Ruda Śląska and Świętochłowice, close to the A4 freeway and an expressway running across the Upper Silesian conurbation. The park is also close to Katowice's Pyrzowice Airport and a railway line from Dresden in Germany to Kiev in Ukraine via Poland's Wrocław, Katowice and Przemyśl. The park covers an area of 1,090 hectares and comprises sites left behind by the former Wawel and Zgoda coal mines as well as Zakłady Urządzeń Technicznych Zgoda metallurgical enterprise. The planned investment projects will revive areas located in the center of the Upper Silesian conurbation through the introduction of modern technology.

Investing in the future

The Upper Silesian Technology Incubator is also located in Ruda Śląska. The institution, established by the municipal authorities in association with the Silesian University of Technology in Gliwice, the Medical University of Silesia in Katowice, and the Upper Silesian Enterprise Transformation Agency, taps into the region's intellectual potential. The mission of the incubator is to create opportunities for the start-up and development of innovative businesses by providing them with assistance in terms of infrastructure, marketing, work force and finance, in addition to other services.

Innovation is the key idea behind the Technopark Gliwice, located in the center of the Silesian University of Technology campus. One objective of the project is to intensify the transfer of technology from the region's largest university of technology and the local research-and-development centers to small and medium-sized businesses in the area. Another goal is to encourage scientists and young graduates to start businesses focused on innovative technology. A strong point of the project is that it attempts to utilize the region's huge scientific potential.

The experience of the past decade or so shows that this form of supporting enterprise is one of the best tools to stimulate development. Entrepreneurs benefit from lower operating costs and tax breaks as well as business advice, loans and technology transfer. Another important thing is that the parks, by supporting innovation and advanced technology, contribute to the diversification of business activities in Silesia, a province whose future will be increasingly less dependent on coal mines and steelworks.

Jarosław Szymonowicz
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