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The Warsaw Voice » Business » October 27, 2011
Business & Economy
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SME Conference in Katowice
October 27, 2011   
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Hundreds of businesspeople from across Europe flocked to the southern Polish city of Katowice Oct. 6 and 7 to discuss the state and prospects of the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) sector.

The 1st European Congress of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises examined the strengths and weaknesses of Europe’s small and medium-sized businesses and discussed the role of local government and the central government administration in supporting entrepreneurship. Other topics included funding available to small businesses, the development of family businesses, and the role of business clusters in enhancing innovation. Moreover, conference participants compared the policies of EU member states with regard to the SME sector, as well as opportunities for enterprises to take advantage of scientific research through developing cooperation between the science sector, SMEs and local government.

The two-day event was one of the SME sector’s largest business meetings in Central and Eastern Europe. It attracted 23 foreign delegations and a total of more than 2,500 participants.

The conference’s opening session was attended by Jerzy Buzek, president of the European Parliament, who stressed the importance of innovation as a determinant of economic growth. “Small and medium-sized businesses generate about 60 percent of the EU’s GDP today and provide nearly 70 percent of jobs across the EU,” said Buzek. “This explains why it is so important to resolve the problem of their access to funds and create a European patent system.”

According to Buzek, the main strengths of SMEs include their flexibility, caution in decision making, efficiency and rapid response to changing market conditions—unlike big companies, which often find it difficult to take immediate action.

According to data by the Polish Agency for Enterprise Development (PARP), which co-organized the congress, a total of 1.7 million businesses are currently registered in Poland, 99 percent of which belong to the SME sector (96 percent of the latter are micro-enterprises). Statistics show that Poland is in sixth place in Europe when it comes to the number of registered businesses.

“SMEs generate half of the country’s GDP and employ more than 60 percent of the work force in Poland. They are flexible and easily adapt to changes at a time of crisis,” said Tadeusz Donocik, president of the Regional Chamber of Commerce in Katowice, the main organizer of the congress.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who also attended the conference, highlighted the role of SMEs in fending off the crisis. “When we talk about the large internal market or the extensive resources that have helped Poland navigate through the first wave of the crisis with little harm done, we are really talking about the efforts of small and medium-sized companies,” Tusk said.

One of the key issues debated during the conference was funding available to SMEs. Jerzy Samborski, president of Unicorn SME Union Poland, said, “It is necessary to strengthen access to financing for SMEs and their access to local markets, including concessions for entrepreneurs in accessing the public procurement market, which is still very difficult to enter.”

Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister Waldemar Pawlak encouraged small and medium-sized companies to grow their business, be innovative and take advantage of support offered by EU programs. Together with Donocik and Olgierd Dziekoński, secretary of state at the President’s Office, Pawlak officially opened the Business Expo trade fair of services and products for SMEs that accompanied the conference. Nearly 70 exhibitors from across Poland—including Getin Noble Bank, Idea Bank, Lotos, Tauron, Bank Zachodni WBK, and the PARP—showed their wares and promoted their products and services.

At the end of November, experts and entrepreneurs plan to submit their joint proposals to the authorities on how to stimulate the development of the SME sector and help small and medium-sized businesses overcome the barriers they encounter.
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