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How to support entrepreneurship? Kielce City’s initiatives for local business

What do entrepreneurs expect from local authorities? The most frequently repeated answer is that they should not interfere. Entrepreneurs complain about the thicket of regulations, unstable law, high labour costs ... Most problems, however, result from central solutions, not local ones. In such case, can local governments influence anyhow economic climate and support entrepreneurs? It turns out that there are a lot of possibilities. From regional promotion through cooperation with local business to education - but the most important is mutual understanding and readiness to cooperate on both sides.
 
Since the beginning of this year, the City of Kielce has been implementing an interesting educational initiative co-financed by the EU funds and addressed to secondary school students. Does education have anything in common with doing business? Well, it does. Programme: Entrepreneurship Education in Kielce is a pilot action in which secondary school students participate in workshops, discussions and meetings with people running their own businesses on a daily basis. Students are also activated outside their schools, i.e. they take part in study visits in local companies and in thematic trips to the Money Centre of the National Bank of Poland and the Warsaw Stock Exchange.
- Such activities can bring interesting results in the future, they can drive those young people, who will soon be looking for their own professional path, to action - says Anita Lagierska who represents the Investor Assistance Centre in the Kielce City Hall. - Often, there is an idea for own business, there are funds available to start its activity, but there is a lack of knowledge and self-confidence. Self-believe is the key - we would like to make young people think that it is worth taking a risk - she adds.
 
The project’s hit is, however, an intuitive on-line game. In the virtual reality, young entrepreneurs train “running a business”. They work in groups, discuss strategies and make mutual decisions on purchasing raw materials and machines, running production and sales, or hiring employees. Although it is only a simulation, the results - profit obtained, loans taken, chances for long-term activity, and customer satisfaction - are all extremely important. Students’ performance is assessed by teachers on an ongoing basis. Students’ teams compete with each other and the best ones will receive some prizes.
 
This project is highly appreciated by the Kielce’s school head teachers and teachers, and soon all secondary school students from the Kielce Functional Area will be able to play the game. But, this is only the beginning of cooperation with local schools. Thanks to signing the contract with the National Bank of Poland for implementing the project “There is no Future without Entrepreneurship! - Kielce Tournament of School Oxford Debates”, the first tournament of Oxford debates on topics related to entrepreneurship, economy and finances in Poland will take place in Kielce. This project is implemented in six Kielce’s grammar schools. Students and teachers from these schools took part, for example, in workshops on the principles of debating as well as organising and conducting Oxford debates. - Next year we are planning to continue these activities and complement them with an exceptional offer for the youngest - says Anita Lagierska. - We are working on a project addressed to the youngest citizens in Kielce. We would like to prepare a theatre performance for children from kindergartens and primary schools, grades 1-3, which will teach them how to become thrifty and frugal.
 
The originator of these educational projects is the Investor Assistance Centre functioning in the Kielce City Hall. A number of other activities undertaken by the investor Assistance Centre have been described in the “Entrepreneurship Support Programme for the City of Kielce” which was created as a result of extensive public consultations. It envisages investments in human capital, cooperation with local companies, tax relieves for new investments, and economic promotion of the city. Apart from cooperation with the local business community and nationwide economic media, the Investor Assistance Centre is developing cooperation with the municipalities of the Kielce Functional Area. One of the tools is the Investment Offers Database which contains offers both from Kielce and the Kielce Functional Area. Such a database (www.mapa.invest.kielce.pl) is a modern tool based on GIS technology for presenting brown and green fields as well as production halls, offices, and service premises. It is systematically updated and allows for viewing a given property in its infrastructure environment, be it on the map or in ground and aerial photographs. By showing investment areas, the Investor Assistance Centre promotes Kielce's economic potential, presents leading companies and major industrial sectors of the Kielce Functional Area. Such a joint and integrated investment offer is more comprehensive and therefore more attractive for an external investor. And cooperation with the neighbouring municipalities is an added value - say representatives of the Investor Assistance Centre of the Kielce City Hall.
 
Investor Assistance Centre has been functioning in the Kielce City Hall since 2005 and is an official partner of the Polish Investment and Trade Agency in Warsaw. In accordance with the Agency’s standards, the Investor Assistance Centre’s team collects economic information about the city, conducts investment projects as part of support for new investors and provides them with post-investment care. Website (www.invest.kielce.pl) fully devoted to economic issues and the Facebook profile Inwestuj w Kielcach are a showcase and source of information about the city and local companies.
 
Cooperation with the Kielce Technology Park which has a rich and diversified offer of support for production and service companies in Kielce is also crucial for the city and the Investor Assistance Centre. These are 11-hectare investment areas equipped with media and a system of access roads, modern office buildings, production halls, car parks, and social space for employees. In addition to infrastructure support, the Park supports its tenants by offering training and conference support, specialised consulting services and the opportunity to be in the inspiring environment of young and thriving companies specialising in new technologies. This offer would not have been created without the determination of local authorities in buying degraded post-industrial areas in the northern part of Kielce and their systematic modernisation thanks to the EU and own funds. In Kielce, modern and prosperous industrial districts have been established, and institutions which want and know how to support local business are developing. 

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