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The Warsaw Voice » Other » November 18, 2009
ŁódĽ Region
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Immense Potential
November 18, 2009   
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Włodzimierz Fisiak, Marshal of Lodz Region, talks to Maria Sondej.

Lodz Region turned 90 this year. How are you marking the anniversary?
There have been plenty of attractive events and we are in for more. We have managed to get region residents interested in our projects, and we have also efficiently promoted the region in Poland and abroad. We achieved that by organizing concerts by internationally acclaimed artists. To name a few, Placido Domingo came to sing in Lodz at our request and audiences at the 21st Lodz Ballet Meetings saw a performance by Mikhail Baryshnikov.

How is the region doing economically?
The anniversary year has been a very good one for us economy-wise. To begin with, we have resisted the global crisis. Statistics show that we have been the only region in Poland with industrial production on the rise, while output in most regions declined. This is the result of a "massive attack" we launched on the economy, mainly thanks to an efficient absorption of EU funds. Let me just say that the region has almost 2 billion euros to spend by 2013. Growing amounts are finding their way to the market. We lead the way in terms of the number of EU co-financing agreements signed so far. The agreements are worth over zl.1 billion, but we have been also carrying out immense projects using our own budget. Every year, the proportion of investment outlays in total spending increases. Under the guidelines that the Lodz Region Administration has adopted in the draft 2010 budget, the proportion should be maintained on at least the same level as this year. The main investment areas are region roads and healthcare centers.

At the same time, Lodz Region has no debt, which testifies to the rational management of public funds here. We have obtained some very good ratings too. The Fitch Ratings agency has given us the highest credit rating nationwide. We can thus afford to incur loans for investment. We plan to spend funds from consumer loans entirely on road projects.

What do you pay special attention to while distributing EU funds?
Apart from helping subregions catch up economically, we keep stimulating the economy. We have spent vast amounts on roads and on the improvement of innovation and competitiveness in enterprises. We invest in new technology by computerizing the health sector and providing the region and city of Lodz with broadband internet access. The latter, a metropolitan network project, has been approved by experts. We do not forget tourism, treating it as a priority sector of our economy.

We are aware of the significance of the Human Capital Operational Program, because whatever happens in our region, it is the people that are the decisive factor. They are well educated and open to the world; they are ready to embrace change and know how to use state-of-the-art technology.

We have interesting proposals for enterprises. Lodz Region is one of five regions in Poland to have joined the Jeremie initiative. Almost zl.200 million will be transferred via a bank to small and medium-sized enterprises in the form of a mutual trust fund.

You mentioned the healthcare sector. What investment and restructuring steps are Lodz Region authorities taking in this area?
For example, we have completed a tender for the redevelopment of the Korczak pediatric center housed in century-old buildings in the center of Lodz. Using EU funds, we will soon start modernizing it. I dare say this will be the modernization of the century in the Lodz healthcare sector.

We are also spending large sums of money on an oncology center. Oncology is very strong in Lodz Region and so there is a reason why we should become the key center nationwide for this branch of medicine. Construction is nearing completion on a huge Clinic and Teaching Center that will mainly be used by the Medical University of Lodz. The university will move many of its clinics to the center. That, in turn, requires us to merge hospitals so as to make a more rational use of their infrastructure.

Have the residents been able to feel the positive changes?
They certainly have, judging by the young and enterprising people who keep returning to Lodz and the region from abroad. There were 260 of them in 2007, 500 returned in 2008, and 300 in the first quarter of this year alone-resourceful people have decided that their place is here. When you add to this the growing number of university students in our region, which currently stands at far over 100,000, you can see the immense potential of Lodz Region.
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