SECOND INVESTMENT SUMMIT ORGANISED IN KOŠICE BY CITY AND AMCHAM

Košice area woos investors

EVEN though it is still not connected to Bratislava by a highway, the eastern Slovak regions of Košice and Prešov have much to offer investors, whether it is in the form of location, available labour force or their strong educational base. A number of successful established investments demonstrate the prospects. The city of Košice and the American Chamber of Commerce in Slovakia (AmCham Slovakia) organised a conference, Košice Invest 2010, on October 19 to present the investment opportunities in Košice and the wider region.

EVEN though it is still not connected to Bratislava by a highway, the eastern Slovak regions of Košice and Prešov have much to offer investors, whether it is in the form of location, available labour force or their strong educational base. A number of successful established investments demonstrate the prospects. The city of Košice and the American Chamber of Commerce in Slovakia (AmCham Slovakia) organised a conference, Košice Invest 2010, on October 19 to present the investment opportunities in Košice and the wider region.

This was the second such investment conference in Košice. Participation exceeded the expectations of the organisers, with more than 200 participants attending the conference including representatives of the city, the most important local and foreign investors, and companies already operating in Košice and eastern Slovakia.

“Both regions offer a favourable business environment and enough available qualified labour,” Vladimír Vaňo, chief analyst with Volksbank, said in an analysis presented at the conference, as cited by the SITA newswire. “This region is in a unique position, both within the eurozone as well as the European Union. It is expected that economic growth will be fastest here.”

According to Vaňo, the east of Slovakia can benefit from its position at the centre of a group of former Eastern Bloc countries representing 90 million people, and the fact that Slovakia is the only country in the region to have adopted the euro.

The analyst thinks the region should stop talking about the handicap represented by the missing highway link with Bratislava, and pointed out that an alternative highway through northern Hungary already exists. The Hungarian border is less than 25 kilometres from Košice.

“When presenting the region to foreign investors it might help to stress the fact that the northern highway route in Hungary is the gateway to eastern Slovakia and thus Košice or Prešov do not need to wait for the highway across Slovakia to be completed,” he said, adding that while other infrastructure is at the same level as in western Slovakia, the available qualified labour force in that part of the country has been exhausted. He expects that with a slightly stronger economic revival, interest from investors will increase, especially among firms from Asia or the USA.

George F. Babcoke, president of steelmaker U.S. Steel Košice and first vice-president of AmCham Slovakia, highlighted in his speech the fact that thanks to its broad-gauge rail link, Košice is a gateway to Ukraine and Russia.

“The city has a great potential in the field of innovations in science and research,” Babcoke said, adding that the city offers a qualified and – compared to the national average – cheaper labour force, with widespread university education. He pointed to the city’s long tradition as a centre of education, science and research, and culture. Moreover, he noted that state and EU incentives are available, as well as an extensive supply of industrial parks and office space.

The conference programme consisted of four sessions, the first of which focused on the economic environment in Košice and the region. The next session focused on investments in information and communication technologies, featuring among others the successful example of T-Systems in Košice.

T-Systems Slovakia, part of Deutsche Telekom Group, was launched in 2006. The company now has over 2,000 employees and plans to expand further.

Other significant investments in eastern Slovakia mentioned by Pavel Bárdoš, from the Edison Consulting Group, include RWE IT in IT services, U.S. Steel Košice, Embraco, Yazaki Wiring, Panasonic, and NESS KDC.

The third conference session was dedicated to research, development and innovation; and the final session to logistics, transportation, and infrastructure.

Košice’s mayor, František Knapík, said the city is aware of the huge contributions which existing investors have brought and is thus determined to continue its pro-investment strategy. According to Knapík, the existing investments have shown that the administrative and organisational support of the city is decisive for successful cooperation, especially in the initial phase.

To assist potential investors, Košice’s city council has prepared, in cooperation with PricewaterhouseCoopers, a Guide to Investment in Košice 2010, which provides comprehensive information about the environment, conditions and opportunities for investment.

“Investments with higher added value can be linked to the very interesting prospects of Košice, presented by quality university education in this town and the fact that the average age of Košice citizens is about 35 years,” said Rastislav Puchala, the city council official responsible for international relations and tourism, whose idea it was to organise the conference.

“There are a lot of young people here who, if interesting work opportunities appear, could certainly stay. And this might have extraordinary importance for the future development of the city.”


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