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The Warsaw Voice » Other » June 25, 2008
THE £ÓD¬ REGION VOICE
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Optimism and Determination
June 25, 2008   
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W³odzimierz Fisiak, the chief executive of the £ód¼ provincial government assembly, talks to Maria Sondej.

Transport and roads have been a hot topic in Poland recently. On the one hand, the country needs new roads; on the other, there is red tape and regulations that delay these projects. How is £ód¼ province doing in this area?
Our region is located in the center of Poland and will soon be the scene of major transportation projects. Some of these projects are already under way. There are plans to build many national roads and a fast rail line to connect £ód¼ with Warsaw, with links to Poznań and Wroc³aw. £ód¼'s W³adys³aw Reymont Airport is developing. These are very significant projects because it is hard to talk about the region's development without a good transport network.

For the time being, the situation is far from perfect. We have 1,130 km of provincial roads, 80 percent of which are in extremely bad condition. Over the next several years, we will renovate and modernize 924 km of these, at a cost of zl.2.6 billion. The money will come mainly from our own funds, to be supplemented by European Union funding and a loan. It is worth taking a loan since road projects pay off quickly.

We can see great interest among outside investors. We have attracted well-known international brands such as Indesit, Bosch, Philips, and Dell. Recently I took part in a ceremony marking the launch of work to build a big glassworks for the Euroglas company. This is a good direction of development.

We also need to focus on one more thing-communications and the development of the broadband internet network. Today only 20 percent of residents in £ód¼ province have broadband internet access, so a lot still needs to be done in this area. You cannot build a good logistics center-and the city of £ód¼ and the whole region should become one-without a communications network based on modern technology.

Is economic development the prime focus for £ód¼ province?
We also invest a lot in sports facilities. Recently we joined the central government's Orlik 2012 program for building sports fields across the country. We want to build 46 such fields this year, with money from our own budget, in addition to funds provided by district governments and the Ministry of Sports. Two years from now, each district should have such a field. After these facilities are built, it will be easier to hold tournaments for children, as well as local, county-level and province-level soccer, basketball and volleyball matches.

Also, in connection with the Euro 2012 soccer championships that will be held in Poland and Ukraine, local councilors in £ód¼ province have set aside funds for holding sports events for children, including soccer tournaments. We want to encourage more people to spend their free time actively instead of just watching sports on television.

We also have other ambitions related to Euro 2012. We have proposed several locations in the province to play host to Euro 2012 teams during the tournament. The event will last just three weeks, but the infrastructure will stay on, to the benefit of local residents, particularly young people. Children should practice sports in decent facilities, with good coaches, so that they can become champions themselves when they grow up.

What about tourism? £ód¼ lies in the center of Poland far from the sea or mountains.

But we offer interesting leisure opportunities. These include several tourist trails that run through our province, such as the Amber Trail and the Roman Trail, in addition to other sightseeing options. We also have seven scenic parks of singular beauty. We want to promote all these attractions, and build the necessary infrastructure. In one innovative project, we plan to launch a scenic horseback riding trail with the use of central-government funds.

We also invest a lot in culture. We are opening new cultural facilities and renovating existing ones, helping the city in its bid to secure designation as European Capital of Culture 2016.

One more thing: it is very important to achieve a symbiosis between business, tourism and academia. We have more than 20 university-level schools in our province, with a total of 120,000 students. This is our great asset and we have to build stronger links between the academic and business communities. Colleges should not just work for themselves, but the results of their work should contribute to the region's economy. We need to make sure that this is the case.

These are far-reaching plans. What do you need to carry them out?
Determination, optimism and money-and we have all of these. £ód¼ province will receive nearly zl.2 billion from the European Union in 2007-2013. This is a lot of money and we have to use it well.
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