SPIŠSKÁ NOVÁ VES - The European Union has allocated two million euros (Sk87 million) for the construction of a wood processing industrial park in this eastern Slovak municipality.
"Officials in Brussels have approved the project. This will really help alleviate unemployment in Spišská Nová Ves," said Juraj Beňa, Spišská city superintendent and the head of the district office, on October 5.
The project is expected to create between 800 and 1,000 new jobs by the year 2003. Spišská Nová Ves (population 40,000) has one of the nation's highest unemployment rates at 25.8%. The national average is 18%.
The park will be specially designed for the wood-processing industry and will be constructed on the existing premises of the Nový Domov Holdings firm, a large wood processing company which had to cut the majority of its workforce after the fall of communism in 1989.
The reduced scope of Nový Domov's operation has left several of the units on the site vacant. Nový Domov currently occupies 50% of the nine hectare compound.
The project involves mainly the upgrading of the industrial complex, but also includes the construction of new facilities. An additional 9,000 square metres of factory space will be erected on a 20,000 square metre green area adjacent to the site.
"This is a very intelligent investment because it will create many jobs at a relatively low cost," Beňa said.
"Spišská Nová Ves used to be a major centre for the wood industry, but the sawmills in the area have had to lay off most of their workers since 1989.
"But all the key infrastructure is still in place. The buildings are already there, so limited new construction will be required. Plus, there is a woodworking school on the premises which turns out skilled labourers."
Beňa was unable to say exactly when the project would begin, adding that he expected construction to start "by the end of the year".
Karol Mitrík, the mayor of Spišská Nová Ves, said he hoped the upgrades would attract further investments. Six firms have already expressed interest in further related investments, he said, an injection which could reach Sk150 million.
The total cost of the project is estimated at 2.8 million euros. After the EU investment of 2 million euros, the city will pay the remaining Sk35 million.
The largest costs, according to an EU Phare document prepared for the project, will be upgrades to an existing heating plant, reconstruction of sewage systems, the reconstruction of buildings on the site and the construction of access roads to the Nový Domov complex (see chart).
Beňa said that the Agentúra pre rozvoj Spiša, a development agency in the Spiš region, had been working on ways to increase employment opportunities in the city for years.
"The two most logical options are woodworks, because we already have the infrastructure, and tourism, because we have many attractions in the Spiš region," he said.
Along those lines, he added, the agency was preparing another project for the refurbishment and construction of fish ponds in the region to attract tourism and increase local employment. It will apply for funds from the European Union.
Slovakia has one industrial park currently operating in Vráble, western Slovakia. Another in Lozorno, built for Volkswagen Slovakia, is expected to be finished by the end of the year.