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An interview with Bożena Szczypiór, Deputy Mayor of Kielce

An increase in the number of requests for new investments and zoning permits, as well as a higher interest in investment areas, have been noted in Kielce lately. Undoubtedly the pandemic has not stopped the economic development of Kielce. Two important projects for the future of the city are also underway: the construction of Central Office of Measures laboratories and, starting any day now – the construction of the Cromodora Wheels factory.
I have the impression that both in the economic and social sphere we are beginning to get used to the pandemic, in a sense we have learned to live with the virus, it has become a bit more predictable for us, also thanks to vaccinations. What is more, it has changed the priorities of many of us. And this is affecting the city life and economy, points out Bożena Szczypiór.
In an interview deputy mayor of Kielce talks about the challenges that the city faces and the opportunities which will determine its further development. The development should be measured not only by the number of new investments but first of all, by the improvement of the life quality of Kielce inhabitants.

What – two years after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic – is the economic situation of Kielce?
In most cases, Kielce entrepreneurs have coped really well with the crisis, adapting their businesses, including production, to the new economic conditions and needs. The coronavirus has not stopped their plans, on the contrary – many have used this time to prepare and launch new investments. The City Hall currently receives a large number of requests for new investments and zoning permits. There are many discussions behind us, about which I cannot talk publicly for now. We have also noticed an increased interest in investment areas. The prices we obtained
in recent tenders were much higher than we expected. Our aim is to provide optimal conditions for companies to do business and recover lost profits, including minimizing the costs they incur. Moreover, as one of the few local governments in Poland, we have not frozen our investments even for a moment. Already in spring 2020, we started with the planned tasks, e.g. in the area of wastewater management. We were aware that mainly local entrepreneurs are engaging in such procedures. We implemented a number of such initiatives and in this way, we could also support local businesses. What is essential, new companies are being established in Kielce all the time. In 2020, more than 29.4 thousand entities were registered in the REGON register, almost a thousand more than in 2018. The condition of these companies largely depends on the current economic situation in the country, and this – as we know – is not the best. Rising inflation and credit costs or the stagnation in dialogue with the EU do not inspire optimism.

What economic challenges is the city facing today?
We are developing by using the existing economic and social potential. The city is well evaluated, among others, in the report ‘Investment attractiveness of regions’, prepared by the Warsaw School of Economics. Much better than the whole region. A serious constraint on the further development of Kielce is certainly its transport isolation. No motorway runs through the region, and modernization of the S7 beyond the borders of the region is still underway. Meanwhile, which is important but also understandable, we are seeing growing interest from companies in areas where this road has already taken on another dimension. It should also be outlined that 66% of Kielce is covered by various forms of nature reserves, which on the one hand improves the quality of life in the city, but on the other hand, limits the availability of land for manufacturing companies development.

What about the land in Obice where the airport was to be built? The total area is about 300 hectares.
Here the matter is more complex. In the zoning plans of Morawica and Chmielnik communes, these areas are earmarked for an airport. It must be remembered that the plots were acquired in various ways. Some – unfortunately, a small percentage – were bought directly from the owners, others were merged as a result of expropriations. According to the law, if the municipality does not realize the purpose behind the expropriation, it is obliged to pay compensation to the owners. Currently, we are making efforts to create a special purpose act and change the zoning plan, in order to be able to pay compensations to the landowners and – what’s extremely important for us – to be able to keep this land entirety. The area has huge business potential. There is also a lot of interest in properties located in neighboring communes, mainly due to their lower prices in comparison to Kielce land prices. This is a natural situation and is typical for medium and large cities. Nevertheless, it does not threaten Kielce's position as the most important social, academic and – above all – economic center in the region.

You have two significant investments ahead of you, with high potential to strengthen this position.
We managed to lead to the realization of projects for which other cities and regions also strived intensively. The first is the construction of the Central Office of Measures laboratories complex. What is crucial is that there is a lot of talk about EU co-financing of  this  investment  and  the  fact  that  Kielce  donated  the  land  worth over PLN 36 million. We feel to be co-creators of a project that will stimulate the city economically. The laboratories com-plex, which is to inaugurate its operations in 2023, will be able to host smaller entities dealing with various types of expertise or measurements. The second investment, crucial from the perspective of the city, is  the  construction  of  a Cromodora Wheels factory, an Italian producer of car rims, which should start operating any day now. The plant will employ 400 people. A new, large company with foreign capital will also contribute to the increase in demand for products and services in the metal-machine industry. Some  companies  from  Kielce  are  also  planning  to  expand  and  come to us with their projects, but at this stage, due to the interests of the entrepreneurs, we cannot disclose details.

And why is it worth investing in Kielce?
I see at least five reasons. Great location – the distance from Kraków, Warsaw, Łódź, Lublin and Katowice is no more than 180 km and the average drive time to the nearest airports – Pyrzowice, Balice, Okęcie – is about two hours. What is more, the con-struction of an expressway to Kraków is to be completed within two  years,  which  will  shorten  the  travel  time  to  the  airport  in  Balice. Two  –  high  human  resources  potential.  Salary  expectations  of  Kielce universities graduates are lower than those from the largest Polish cities, and it should be noted, that 60 percent of all the costs of a given enterprise are labor costs. Life is also cheaper in Kielce. Another argument – is the constantly improving quality of life in the city. Not without significance is also the presence of Kielce Trade Fairs and Kielce Technology Park, which is an example of excellent use of opportunities for the development of business infrastructure,  available  to  both  local  and  external  investors.  Companies investing in Kielce can count on the goodwill of the city authorities and support from the Investor Assistance Centre.

What kind of support are we talking about?
The team of Investor Assistance Centre is engaged in seeking locations for investors, helps to establish business contacts, runs an  online  database  of  investment  offers.  The  Centre  has  been  repeatedly appreciated by investors for its business approach, openness, and knowledge of the realities of the local market. Other departments of the City Hall are also involved in services dedicated to investors. Additionally, in 2021 we launched two key instruments supporting the development of enterprises in Kielce:  exemption  from  property  tax  on  newly  built  objects  or  their parts related to production and exemption from property tax on new buildings with high-standard offices. These are two sectors that we want to develop very strongly. We  also  support  craftsmen,  often  one-person  businesses  or  small family businesses, by reducing their property tax. We have also created a Map of Craftsmen, encouraging residents to use the services of professionals.

What does the city need today for further development?
We  should  remember  that  development  is  not  only  about  in-vestment. We need nurseries, kindergartens and new housing, as well as pavements, lighting, roads and a sewage system – as indicated by the inhabitants during the public consultations organized as part of the ‘Periphery’ program. We are on the eve of launching the next EU financial perspective. At the moment we are getting familiar with regional guidelines for that and we already know that this will not be ‘easy’ money. We have to adjust our development needs to the possibilities of the city budget, in which we should secure our own contribution to the planned investments.
In a  moment  we  will  adopt  a new Kielce City Strategy 2030+ towards Smart City, i.e. a smart city with a focus on sustainable development. In consultation with the inhabitants, we have de-fined our objectives and subordinated investment needs to them, with  an  amount  a total of PLN 1.5 billion. We sent the list of needs to the regional authorities at the stage of consultation of the Development Strategy of Świętokrzyskie Region 2030+. We are waiting for its adoption and implementation.

Source: Kielce Technology Park

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