Q. How would you describe your strategy for attracting foreign investors to the city?
A. First of all, our strategy in Olsztyn is probably consistent with the strategy of our [wider] region, so with the strategy of Warmia and Masuria. We are the provincial capital, and we know that big cities [like ours] have the best opportunity for dynamic development when they use their own potential. We also appreciate the fact that Poland has been part of the EU for 10 years.
Our advantage, I always emphasise, when it comes to the city – is our people. Because the human capital, knowledge and skills, in this fast-paced world, are the most important. Olsztyn is a university town and we are proud of it. We also have five non-public schools. This allows us to invest in human capital, in our inhabitants, and people who come here from the wider region and also from other parts of Poland to study. And then, they all help to contribute to the area's socio-economic development. Because these young people are really well educated and trained, and based on these people, we build our future.
When it comes to the number of people in Olsztyn that are professionally active, we are above average in the country, with 65% of the population in employment. In Olsztyn, when it comes to the broad economic sphere, we have primarily small and medium-sized businesses. There are more than 20,000 such businesses registered. We also have large companies operating in the city, with different stories. These include, among others, foreign companies, the biggest of which is Michelin, which employs 4200 people currently.
What can we do from a city perspective? We try to encourage entrepreneurs and also foreign investors to do business with us; to co-operate with us. Since we joined the EU, we have had the opportunity to offer so-called regional aid to companies that are willing to invest in Olsztyn [through the Regional Operational Programme].
The second thing we can offer is that we can take companies that are operating in the city of Olsztyn under the umbrella of our special economic zone – this we offer to existing companies as well as those that would possibly like to invest in the city [especially on 'undeveloped land']. The main benefit for the companies is relief from tax income. So these zones, by 2026, will be able to function normally on the principles that were adopted and agreed with the European Commission.
We also have the opportunity to offer different kind of work equipment, following the appropriate programme, and also training of new workers for these companies, if companies ask for such co-operation.
Q. What are the plans for increasing connectivity within the region?
A. This is a very important question. I am glad that you asked about it. We know that every activity, every business requires decent mobility. With regards to that, technical infrastructure is crucial and necessary. You had a chance to travel here, so you know where we are standing. In our country a lot is going on, however, these connections require modernisation. There has been some improvement regarding the railways, but still, a lot of needs to be changed. Poland's [EU-funded] infrastructure and environmental programme covers this topic.
We need a connection between Olsztyn and Warsaw, as well as links between Olsztyn and Gdansk, Elk and Bialystok. This is happening right now. It is the subject of various projects, which were implemented under the programme 2007 to 2013 in the past European financial perspective. Also, between 2014 and 2020, a lot of funds will be used for this purpose.
The road network system is also very important. Large projects have been prepared and work is already being carried out, with a final completion date set for 2018. The National Road Building Programme covers national roads and express ways, and was adopted by the government and has been implemented by the General Agency of Roads and Highways.
Here, a lot is going on. We can assume that by the end of 2018, Olsztyn will be very well connected, both with Warsaw and Gdansk.
It is worth mentioning also about our airport. Regional authorities are responsible for it, in this case, the marshal of the voivodeship. It is in the final stages of completion, and the Szymany Airport will be ready this year. That means that, within the next few years the connectivity of our region will improve a lot.
I would also like to draw attention to another important development: the construction of a bypass. The southern bypass, when it is built, will solve the problem with trucks and heavy cars. At the moment, the movement of these vehicles through the city is very disruptive. The city's old roads are unsuitable for such heavy loads and are damaged by trucks. Of course, we organise various projects to improve these conditions, but this requires time, money and all sorts of activities from us. Having the bypass will enormously help us with this. Additionally, it will help our residents with traveling from one place to the other within our region.
Also, we have been modernising the public transport system. We are building a tram road system. The internal system/model, which is necessary to connect to the ring road/bypass. We are going to start working on it very soon. It means that both internal and external transport and connectivity will be improved brilliantly by 2018.