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The Warsaw Voice » Real Estate » February 23, 2010
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Where the Bison Roam
February 23, 2010   
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The eastern region of Podlasie, which stretches all the way to the Lithuanian and Belarusian borders, is primarily associated with Bia這wie瘸 Forest, a nature reserve that is home to a large population of European bison.

Just over 1.2 million people live in Podlasie. The unemployment rate in the province is 11 percent. The largest city is Bia造stok, with a population of 295,000.

Bia這wie瘸 National Park was designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1977 and since 1979 has been Poland's only natural site on the UNESCO List of World Heritage Sites. Bia這wie瘸 Forest accounts for more than 25 percent of the world's free-ranging wisent, or European bison, population.

Some 40 percent of the province's area is under protection. The Suwa趾i and August闚 Lake District, with the Wigry National Park and Suwa趾i Scenic Park, as well as a lake district in the vicinity of the town of Rajgr鏚 have special natural and recreational values. Tourists are also drawn to the picturesque marshes of Biebrza, one of the main rivers in the region besides the Narew and Bug.

Since lakes and rivers in Podlasie have water of the highest purity, a growing number of beauty and spa centers are popping up in the region. Some of them are being set up by foreign investors. Experts say the beauty and spa sector in Podlasie is one of the most promising market niches that have yet to be fully tapped.

The province's economy is dominated by agriculture. This means that it pays to invest in the local farming and agri-food processing sectors. Prices of land designated for non-agricultural activities are lower than elsewhere in the country. Recently, organic farms have burgeoned in the province. Podlasie is known across the country for its quality dairy produce. Korycin cheeses, for example, have a reputation for being organic, natural and healthy.

In the coming years, EU funds are expected to help Podlasie gain a more equal footing in competition with other regions in Poland and Central Europe. The province is now at the bottom of the league table in terms of investment appeal. Sources such as the Cohesion Fund, European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund are just some of the institutions interested in supporting the province.

Apart from farm produce and food processing, light industry, timber production and construction are well developed in Podlasie. The region's economy is dominated by small and medium-sized businesses, which account for 99.8 percent of all companies in the province. In the coming years, the region expects to receive an injection of funds from both national and EU programs, something that may significantly change the situation of prospective investors thinking of dropping an anchor in Podlasie.

The region's location close to the country's eastern border helps develop trade and business relations with Lithuania and Belarus, and is also hoped to help enhance business with Russia in the future. For many years now, cross-border trade has been a daily experience for many businesses and local communities in Podlasie province.

Its location close to the border should also enable Podlasie to benefit from funds available under the Interreg Community initiative, which aims to stimulate balanced development of the EU through cross-border, transnational and interregional ties. In this context, the development of the transport network is especially important for the region. The European Conference of Ministers of Transport in Crete in 1994 and in Helsinki in 1997 determined the course of trans-European roads and railway lines. The road from Warsaw to Helsinki via Kaunas, Riga and Tallinn, which runs across Podlasie, became a section of the First Pan-European Transport Corridor. Of the 10 transport corridors for Central and Eastern Europe, four run across Poland. Additionally, railway lines running across the province and covered by the European Agreement on Main International Railway Lines (AGC) will be modernized to allow train speeds of up to 160 kilometers per hour in passenger traffic and 120 kph in freight traffic. This is hoped to spur foreign investment and open new development prospects for the region.
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