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The Warsaw Voice » Regional Voice » June 17, 2010
The Lower Silesia
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Taking Risks to Achieve Success
June 17, 2010   
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Franciszek Październik, the mayor of Oława, talks to the Voice’s Barbara Deręgowska about the municipality’s successes and its development plans.

The Wałbrzych Special Economic Zone came into force in Oława in autumn 2004. What was the aim of this and how successful has it been?
It was not the first development of this kind in our province. The Wałbrzych zone had earlier been expanded to include a site in Jelcz-Laskowice and in other places. Instead of setting up a new zone with preferential tax treatment for investors, we decided to use an existing one. At first, our zone covered only 40 hectares and now has around 80 hectares, of which there are only 2 hectares left for prospective investors. The remaining part of the zone has already been developed by large investors, most of them foreign companies. The zone has attracted to Oława major Swedish, German and Italian companies. In most cases, the management boards control the operation of the local plants from abroad while managerial posts in the plants themselves are held by Poles.

Large global corporations have appeared in Oława. They have not only built their factories here but have continued to expand by making new investments and increasing output levels. One example is Autoliv Poland Sp. z o.o, a manufacturer of automotive safety systems which is now building its fourth plant in the zone. Electrolux Poland, a producer of household appliances, has expanded its operations in Oława two years earlier than planned. SCA Hygiene Products Sp. z o.o., which produces diapers, is also steadily expanding and plans to invest another 62 million euros in the zone. Nardi, a manufacturer of household appliances, UWE, which makes cooling equipment, and SCA Packaging Poland Sp. z o.o. are among other important investors in the zone. And an Italian investor is going to build a plant here to manufacture swimming pool equipment in the near future. Over the six years since setting up the zone we have created 2,500 jobs in all. Unemployment in our city is around 9 percent and is significantly lower than in neighboring municipalities.

How do Oława residents benefit from foreign investors appearing in the area?
I think the zone is a success, although at the start it had many opponents. Why? There were even some councilors who thought that the tax breaks we offered to investors were too generous, given that the city was short of money for many of its tasks. Now, after several years, it is obvious that it was worth attracting investors in this way because as many as 1,000 jobs have been created as a result. Additionally, small and medium-sized businesses based in Oława have gained more customers and are now faring better than before.

The municipal budget for investment projects—projects the city was previously unable to carry out because of a shortage of money—has expanded thanks to the sale of land designated for the development of factories and thanks to taxes from new businesses. We sold land for, say, zl.15 million and then set aside the whole amount to develop infrastructure and prepare more sites for prospective investors.

I carried out my plan methodically. My goal during my first term in office was to provide jobs for people. It was only during my second term that I was able to focus on modernization, road repairs, the sewage and water-supply systems and so on. The city’s revenue from taxes is now three times higher than before the economic zone was set up. More than 7,000 people now work in the zone comprising the city, the rural commune of Oława and Jelcz-Laskowice. Seven new plants have been built in Oława on the zone’s 80 hectares in the city. They have a total production space of almost 110,000 sq m. Products manufactured in the plants are exported to countries across the world. Almost 12,000 sq m of indoor shopping space has also been added.

We continue to do all we can to support investors in the zone because I’m very satisfied with our relations with them. I like the fact that they are eager to financially support activities benefiting the local community, something which is very important for the city residents.

Do you use EU money?
Absolutely. It’s an excellent additional source of funding for municipal projects. So far we have managed to acquire zl.50 million. The money has been spent on environmental protection and other projects, for example the construction of sewage and water-supply systems, sewage and water treatment plants. In the past four years we have given priority to upgrading roads in the city and we now spend three times more on roads than a few years ago.

We’ve had two large projects associated with the construction of the European Cooperation Center approved. We’re renovating the Old Town district, the town hall and old houses on the main market square. We’re building sports fields and planning to restore the old granite pavement of the market square. We’re also going to build a modern indoor swimming pool, which will be partially funded from external sources. We have many ideas but we have to remember the constraints—the need to invest over 50 percent of our own money in each project.

Do you often take risks in order to ensure a better future for the city?
Sometimes. If I have decided to be the mayor I need to have the courage to take a risk in some situations. But I take risks in order to achieve success. I think that my efforts to have the economic zone set up in the city can be placed in this category. Despite many obstacles and the need to take unpopular decisions, I was determined and looked at the whole project from a long-term perspective. This approach has led to today’s success. We are now finishing two public-private partnership procedures to build a municipality-owned building with 74 apartments and a building with 34 flats for low-income families.

I have found private companies ready to enter into partnership with the local government. The city will contribute 30 percent and the private companies 70 percent of the total cost of the projects. If the negotiations are successfully finalized, and I am optimistic, it will be a major success not just locally but in terms of the whole country because, although we have the law on public-private partnership, it still does not work in practice. I have decided to take the risk.

Is it true that Oława is increasingly becoming serious competition for Wrocław in terms of cultural events?
That’s nice to hear, but we will never outpace Wrocław. It is true, however, that cultural life has been developing rapidly in our city for some time now and that our events attract crowds, some of whom travel some distance to Oława. Three years ago Marek Rostecki, the former director of Wrocław’s opera and operetta, was appointed director of our Culture Center. He has managed to develop cultural life in Oława. He has many ideas and achievements to his credit, including setting up a university for senior citizens in Oława, an institution we really appreciate. In January this year, he organized an international festival entitled Musical Families. The festival attracted dozens of ensembles from Poland and other countries. For three days, they danced, sang and enchanted audiences composed of local people and visitors. He is now preparing a large operatic show to be staged thanks to a recently launched team-up with students from Wrocław’s Academy of Music. The show will be inspired by the life of Jakub Sobieski, son of Polish King Jan Sobieski, who once stayed in our city. As part of the city’s development plans, we are modernizing and expanding the culture center, adding a former cinema building. The result will be the European Cooperation Center.

Factfile
Oława has a 2-hectare site for sale in the special economic zone. The square-shaped site comes complete with utilities and with access from a public road. It is designated for industry. The right investor will be offered various forms of assistance.

Urząd Miejski • pl. Zamkowy 15, 55-200 Oława
Tel. 071 303 55 01, 303 55 02 • fax 071 303 55 00
adres e-mail: secretariat@um.olawa.plolawa@um.olawa.pl


Happy to Do Business
“The city supports the development of business and takes care of the local community. The mayor is a friendly person, who supports local enterprises and helps remove barriers, including bureaucratic ones. He is keen to undertake joint initiatives, for example the development of infrastructure. Autoliv Poland is the largest employer in Oława. It employs 1,600, most of whom live in Oława and its surroundings. This is why we support social and local government initiatives—the Great May Picnic, Rooster Days and the Musical Families get-together. We have also funded a mammography unit for the hospital in Oława. Oława is a good place to run a business.”

Sebastian Gałka
Plant Manager, Autoliv Poland (APT)
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