A new economic indicator?

Economists are full of fancy methods for analyzing Slovakia's potential for foreign investment. They look at GDP, at production, at inflation; they compare the price of gas, of rent, and of milk. But they've forgotten to look at one crucial economic indicator - moving companies. Sounds strange, but it makes sense. International moving companies are doing big business moving large companies from points outside Slovakia to points within the country. And the amount of companies they're moving is a clear signal how much foreign capital is coming to Slovakia. For example, take a look at AGS, a Prague-based international moving company. With moves from Prague to Bratislava making up 90 percent of its business, it has carved out a special niche: international firms - Citibank, Deloitte and Touche, KPMG and Nestlé all appear on their client list - moving from their headquarters in the Czech Republic.

Economists are full of fancy methods for analyzing Slovakia's potential for foreign investment. They look at GDP, at production, at inflation; they compare the price of gas, of rent, and of milk. But they've forgotten to look at one crucial economic indicator - moving companies.

Sounds strange, but it makes sense. International moving companies are doing big business moving large companies from points outside Slovakia to points within the country. And the amount of companies they're moving is a clear signal how much foreign capital is coming to Slovakia.

For example, take a look at AGS, a Prague-based international moving company. With moves from Prague to Bratislava making up 90 percent of its business, it has carved out a special niche: international firms - Citibank, Deloitte and Touche, KPMG and Nestlé all appear on their client list - moving from their headquarters in the Czech Republic.

In fact, AGS foresees such a boom in moves to Slovakia that they are setting up a new office here in 1996. "Now investment into Slovakia [compared with the Czech Republic] is low, but in 5 or 10 years they will be equal, so I think the outlook is good," said Ivo Pastorek, AGS's director. Once the Bratislava office opens, AGS will move people into and out of Slovakia, either from Prague or anywhere in the world. "If someone from New York needs to move to the Czech Republic or Bratislava, we can do it," said Pastorek.

In fact, even purely local firms find that business with businesses is booming, as companies relocate staff and add branch offices around Slovakia. Brunus-Bollo, which must remain inside Slovakia because its older moving vehicles don't match European standards, still lists the American Embassy, Hydrostav, and Slovenská Sporeiteľňa as clients.

"More firms want to use moving companies [than individuals], and that's why we're more focused on them," said Robert Čvapek, the owner of Agentúra Nosluš, a Bratislava moving firm that counts Tatra Banka, Česko-Slovenkso Obchodná Banka and the Belgian and Polish Embassies among its clients. Čvapek said that banks like them because they can handle "the hard stuff," like bank vaults that weigh up to 1,000 kilograms (2200 pounds). And embassies use their door-to-door service, which can include everything from packing to arranging furniture for a client's staff.

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