Katarzyna Gruszecka-Spychala

Gdynia's deputy mayor, Katarzyna Gruszecka-Spychala, tells Sebastian Shehadi how the Polish city's outstanding quality of life is attracting talent and investment.

Q: What makes Gdynia attractive to foreign investment?

A: Gdynia’s GDP per capita is 150% higher than the average in Poland, in region, and our unemployment rate is 2.9%, so the growth is really impressive. Gdynia is attractive to investment because of the quality of life, which is the highest of all the cities in Poland, according to independent surveys. We are a mid-sized city, however our ambition is like that of a big city. Gdynia is part of a bigger agglomeration [and region] which houses 1 million people. We offer all the pleasures of living in a very big city, while staying a compact city that is extremely comfortable to live in, walk in, or spend vacations in. So quality is our main aim.

Last year, we developed our new urban plan strategy for 2030, and our aim is to upgrade the quality of life even further, amongst diverse other initiatives. Another important point of our strategy is to be a city of culture. This is very important to high life quality. We organised, for example, the Open'er Festival – which is the Gdynia’s most recognised brand among foreigners. Even though we have strong business brands, the most recognisable is Open’er as it is very trendy and well known among young and middle-aged people as a very big rock festival. We also organise more local, Polish events – such as the largest Polish film festival which takes place annually in Gdynia. There’s also the jazz festival and sports events, such as Iron Man.

The last thing that makes Gdynia attractive to workers and citizens is ecology - we’ve retained a clean city and we invest a lot of money in preserving this. Poland's air quality is best in Gdynia.

Q: What are some exciting investment opportunities?

A: We are now conducting a major regeneration plan concerning the transformation of 71 hectares of waterfront land that is integrated in the city centre. The uniqueness of the waterfront is its location. We are compared to better-known European cities, such as Rotterdam, Liverpool, Hamburg and Gothenburg. What makes the development unique is the location - it’s in the very heart of the city - connected to the city centre. We are in the midst of this regeneration project and we think we may create something very unique for Europe.

For companies, Gdynia offers wonderful human capital – we have five universities in our agglomeration. We offer unique skills, such as Scandinavian languages which are not very common throughout Poland, despite being important. We teach them, and a lot of people from our region speak these languages. Maritime and sea skills are another specialism.

Q: What still needs to be improved for Gdynia’s business environment?

Transport is a big issue. We try to figure out new ideas to make transport more sustainable and comfortable - it’s important for growth. Another issue are public-private partnerships; these are quite difficult due to Polish regulations, but we are still quite successful in finding solutions.

Q: Is Poland’s ruling party, PiS, exacerbating these regulations?

The answer isn’t as simple as ‘yes’ or ‘no’, but ‘rather [more] yes than no’.

This article is sourced from fDi Magazine
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