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The Warsaw Voice » Other » April 16, 2008
XV ECONOMIC FORUM IN TORUŃ - April 21-23, 2008
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Metropolitan Ambitions
April 16, 2008   
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Michał Zaleski, mayor of Toruń, talks to Wojciech Romanowicz.

How important is the 15th Economic Forum to Toruń?

As much as a city of science, culture and history, Toruń is a city of business. Some may be surprised to hear this, because the common notion of Toruń is that of an academic center and a tourist destination. But let us not forget that this is the city of Copernicus, who apart from being a great astronomer, mathematician, doctor of medicine and lawyer, was an esteemed economist. Toruń has to live up to its patron's status and so one of our priorities is enterprise, in all aspects of the term. We have been consistently increasing our investment outlays, from zl.56 million in 2002 to zl.181 million in 2006 to zl.234 million set aside in this year's budget. We keep searching for new investors and assist them in their business operations by creating favorable conditions for all kinds of economic projects.

Is this an efficient strategy? According to the Central Statistical Office, the number of businesses in Toruń has risen by almost 90 percent since 1993. In February, the Polish edition of Forbes magazine published a comparison of Polish cities with populations ranging from 100,000 to 300,000. In the league table, Toruń ranked fifth among the most attractive destinations for foreign capital in Poland. In terms of business appeal, we came in seventh. The Economic Forum, which we have the privilege to host this year, will allow us to demonstrate all the investment opportunities the city has to offer. We want to show to all the participants of the event, including entrepreneurs, politicians and scientists, that Toruń is a city with splendid economic prospects. We also want to promote the entire region. Toruń and Bydgoszcz have been working together to develop a joint metropolitan area, and so we also want to strengthen the region's economic position in Poland.

Why is it so important for Toruń to join forces with other big cities in the region?
Metropolitan areas are a key element of the EU's regional policy. In Poland's regional development agenda, such areas are expected to stimulate the country's economic growth. We simply have to work closely with our neighbors Bydgoszcz and Włocławek. The boundaries between our cities are getting blurred as years go by; residents of one city travel to another on a daily basis and as a result new residential areas pop up in communities along the way. Sometimes it is even difficult to tell where one city ends and the other one begins. Integration brings notable benefits; we complement and support one another. After all, bigger is stronger! As a single, compact and buoyant conurbation with huge potential we stand a better chance of securing external funding; we will make our mark among other regions and become an attractive place for residents, tourists and investors alike.
n To what extent does your policy as mayor reflect Toruń's "metropolitan" plans?

I guess few people know that Toruń was the only Polish city to take part in consultations for a European Commission working paper entitled Cohesion Policy and Cities: The Urban Contribution to Growth and Jobs in the Regions. Seeing how legitimate and vital it is to establish a metropolitan area in Kujawy-Pomerania province, the mayor of Bydgoszcz and I have signed a declaration of cooperation on the development of the future regional conurbation. The declaration is part of the strategic papers of Toruń and the planning documents for the region, including the Kujawy-Pomerania province's development strategy and the regional development program. We want to have our metropolitan area included in the updated Concept of National Land Development. The local government of Kujawy-Pomerania province supported our efforts in a statement issued in November 2004.
The province chairman was also one of the signatories of a partnership agreement concerning the "Bydgoszcz-Toruń Metropolitan Area." That document was signed by the mayors of Toruń and Bydgoszcz and the Bydgoszcz and Toruń county administrators. Last November, the Councils of Toruń and Toruń County held a milestone meeting during which they made a declaration of cooperation. During a session of the Union of Polish Metropolitan Areas in March, we called on the central government to grant legal status to the Bydgoszcz-Toruń metropolitan area, and in May the City Councils of Toruń and Bydgoszcz will for the first time in history hold a joint session.
n What do you think are the major fields of integration and what are the goals of the Bydgoszcz-Toruń conurbation?

We pay special attention to enlargements and improvements in the transportation system, from road construction to modernized airports to more efficient railway connections. In January, our region launched a metropolitan ticket enabling faster and cheaper train travel between Toruń and Bydgoszcz. The modernization of the local telecommunications and IT infrastructure has enabled much faster data transfer between the main cities and towns in Kujawy-Pomerania province. We are a leading center for specialized medical services. If we work together, we may become an academic and cultural center meeting all European standards. The Nicholas Copernicus University (UMK) and the Medical University of Bydgoszcz have already joined forces and then there are the Music Academy in Bydgoszcz and the UMK Fine Arts Faculty in Toruń. We have considerable experience in organizing international events, including fairs, exhibitions, sports competitions and artistic events. Tourists planning a trip to our region should take the new guidebook, Bydgoszcz-Toruń Duopolis, with them.
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