small town big

Grzegorz Benedykcinski, the mayor of Grodzisk Mazowiecki, which won best small Polish city in fDi’s Polish Cities of the Future 2017/18 ranking, explains the secrets behind its success, including a favourable location, an educated workforce and an appetite for innovation.

Q: What makes Grodzisk an attractive location for FDI?

A: Without a doubt, our location: we are near a major highway and close to Warsaw. We understood one thing: that a city is the same as any other commodity [that is being sold]. You cannot just sit and wait, you have to be seen – and not just be seen, but also take care of your city infrastructure, because without it it would be difficult to expect anyone to invest in our location.

We managed to attract flagship companies such as Pepsico and Danfoss 20 years ago, and after that it was much easier because if you have these kinds of large companies, everyone knows they don’t go to places that do not have much going for them.

Q: What kind of companies are you looking to attract to the city?

A: I will reverse that question: we are not looking for companies that will be troublesome for us – that is, companies that will lead to heavy-duty production. We also think that our location, which is within 20 minutes’ drive of Warsaw, and with a lot of available land right by the highway, makes us poised to secure companies from the IT or BPO sectors – companies that will secure jobs for Grodzisk’s highly educated residents. And we’ve seen almost 20,000 people move here in recent years.

Q: Have they come from Warsaw?

A: Seventy per cent are from Warsaw, but a lot of people were the ones who moved to Warsaw and then moved back, to the countryside part of Grodzisk. These are people that currently commute to Warsaw – we have 4000 people commuting to Warsaw every day. 

Q: Do you see Grodzisk as being simply a cheaper satellite location for another, larger city [such as Warsaw]?

A: No. What we’ve been focusing on all along is being an elite location. In Poland, we are still lacking innovative ventures or investments that stand out. We have a wonderful location, well urbanised, but we still need people with ideas that will create such [an innovative] base. We want to be a pearl in a crown around Warsaw, so that everyone will associate Grodzisk not just with Lays chips [made by Pepsico, which operates in the city] and not only with Danfoss valves, but also with IT solutions.

Q: Do you have locally grown start-ups?

A: We do. And now we will be building an innovation centre, right in the middle of the city, for the purposes of start-ups and innovation.

Q: When do you expect this to be up and running?

A: We should be able to open it in two years’ time. We had a plan to build an innovation centre, but as happens in Poland, only a few people understand the need of such centres. This has been influenced by the fact that in two or three places it didn’t work out, so government leaders said it is pointless, without understanding one thing: you need 10 years for it to run properly. That is what we are seeing co-operating with the Austrians, who have become really good at it. 

And if Austria is now an economic giant, if they make money from new technologies, this makes me think that we should learn from them, instead of laughing that something didn’t work out.

Q: How often do you go to Austria to exchange ideas on innovation? 

A: Very often. We benefit from their expertise. Besides that exchange, there is one other important thing: a few years ago when I saw their innovation centres in Austria, I returned and told to my co-worker: “Clearly they have nothing better to spend their money on.” Today, I know I was just in the dark – I did not understand [what they were doing]. 

This article is sourced from fDi Magazine
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