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The Warsaw Voice » Real Estate » February 23, 2010
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Eastern Regions in Focus
February 23, 2010   
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Bożena Czaja, vice-president of the Polish Information and Foreign Investment Agency (PAIiIZ), talks to Witold Żygulski.

Your agency is working to promote Poland's eastern regions as part of the Economic Promotion of Eastern Poland program, which is planned for 2009-2015. What is the main aim of the project?
The Economic Promotion of Eastern Poland program is the first project of its kind that covers five provinces, Podkarpacie, ¦więtokrzyskie, Podlasie, Lubelskie, and Warmia-Mazuria. Its main aim is to encourage greater interest in investment opportunities available in eastern Poland, and thus to accelerate the regions' sustainable socioeconomic development. The program focuses on increasing foreign direct investment in these regions, getting Polish companies interested in investing in eastern Poland, stimulating product and service exports from eastern Poland, and developing business tourism in the area.

In 2004-2005, at the initiative of the Polish Information and Foreign Investment Agency and province chairmen, a network of regional investor service centers was established. The experience of cooperation between the Agency and regional partners will be used during the realization of the Economic Promotion of Eastern Poland program.

In practice, the program is carried out through study visits by foreign journalists, conferences, seminars and economic meetings aimed at drawing the attention of businesspeople, the public and the media to the positive aspects of the regional economies. We also organize business missions, take part in trade fairs and exhibitions, and have launched a website dedicated to business opportunities in eastern Poland, including a database of entrepreneurs.

How does the upcoming MIPIM trade fair fit with the program's goals?
Poland is the guest of honor at this year's MIPIM international commercial real estate event. This means we will have a large delegation representing Poland at a high level. The delegation will include Rafał Baniak, undersecretary of state at the Economy Ministry, and province chairmen and key city mayors from eastern Poland. It is worth noting that this is the first time in the history of MIPIM, one of the most important events promoting commercial real estate, that the five regions have the opportunity of presenting themselves on such a large exhibition area-180 sq m in total.

What attractions can visitors to the Polish stand at MIPIM expect?
The Eastern Poland stand will be the largest of all the Polish stands. Every day for three days, always at 5 p.m., there will be a one-hour cocktail party to which we will invite all the Polish exhibitors and government officials attending the event as well as prospective investors, including developers and design companies. The cocktail parties are planned as an opportunity for informal discussions and will be accompanied by a cooking show by Karol Okrasa and live music. Regional dishes from eastern Poland will be offered for tasting as well.

What is the main strength of eastern Poland as it competes for foreign investors? How best can we persuade prospective partners to take an interest in the five provinces that will exhibit at MIPIM?
The eastern provinces are among the areas that draw in the fewest investors in Poland. Data from the end of August last year show that eastern Poland attracted only 144 of the 1,935 largest foreign investors listed in the PAIiIZ database. This is chiefly due to the regions' poorly developed road infrastructure, the lack of freeways and the small number of expressways, a low level of industrialization, and their heavy reliance on agriculture. Also important is that the Polish economy as a whole is more focused on business contacts with Western Europe than with countries beyond Poland's eastern border.

However, some of the factors that today are seen as the region's weaknesses can become its strengths in the future. The widely highlighted assets of eastern Poland include its location along the border with new EU member states Lithuania and Slovakia and with former Soviet countries Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. Other strengths include government plans for road development, which provide for two freeways and several expressways across eastern Poland, the high quality of human capital in the area, the availability of state-run universities, a qualified work force, a good skills-to-price ratio, good conditions for the development of tourism and agritourism, and good locations for eco-friendly projects and organic food production. Low labor costs, coupled with high qualifications, are an optimum and highly desirable combination for foreign investors.

It is also worth mentioning the region's five economic zones and EU funds available under regional operational programs as well as the Development of Eastern Poland Operational Program. Judging by the events at which PAIiIZ has promoted eastern Poland-including the Barcelona Meeting Point international real estate event in October 2009 and the NASSCOM India Leadership Forum 2010 software exhibition for IT and BPO companies in Mumbai in February 2010-we can see that foreign investors are interested in establishing ties with Polish companies, while municipal and provincial officials are ready to work with investors and promote FDI.

In 2004-2005, at the initiative of the Polish Information and Foreign Investment Agency and province chairmen, a network of regional investor service centers was established. The experience of cooperation between the Agency and regional partners will be used during the realization of the Economic Promotion of Eastern Poland program.
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