How did Poland, a country that threw off Communism nearly three decades ago, manage to keep growing despite a global financial crisis?
The Polish capital, Warsaw, is a city where skyscrapers multiply and dwarf the Communist-era Palace of Culture. Global companies have set up regional bases here, profiting from a skilled workforce, lower costs and a business-friendly climate. Among them, the American financial giant Goldman Sachs, which has plans to boost its workforce in Poland this year.
Euronews’ Chris Burns visited Poland and spoke with Goldman Sachs’ managing director, Brent Watson. He started by asking him why the company chose Poland.
“Talent, and if I look at the capabilities that we’ve been able to find over the last couple of years in Poland, it’s impressive. Language skills, strong technical engineering skills, skills in banking and various areas that we support. Anything that we can find anywhere across the globe. We’re about 570 people right now, so I think we will be about 750 by the end of this year.”
“How easy is it to do business here?, asked Chris Burns.
“The climate in Poland I think is, yes it’s been very cooperative,” said Watson.
“We’ve had good relationships with the government, with the local government, from the city of Warsaw point of view. So it’s an easy place to do business and easy place to travel into, to get to other parts of Europe.”
We head southwest, where Mercedes is building an engine plant in one of Poland’s Special Economic Zones that offer tax breaks and fast-track bureaucracy. It spans one square kilometre, and its output will go into the auto industry across Europe and beyond.
Chris Burns met with Andreas Schenkel, CEO of Mercedes-Benz Poland, at a construction site and asked what the company was planning there.
“We are investing 500 million euros in this site and it’s our first production site of Mercedes Benz cars in Poland,” Schenkel said.
When asked why he picked Poland ahead of so many other countries in the region, Schenkel said: “The main criteria which spoke for this site were the well-educated people, and the support of the Polish government, local government and local authorities.”
Back at the Warsaw Stock Exchange, despite recent global market turbulence, there’s still confidence in Poland’s economic fundamentals keeping the country attractive for investment. Poland’s economy has grown at a rate of about 4% annually since the 1990s, thanks in part to investment from abroad.
Euronews spoke with the president of the Polish Investment and Trade Agency, Tomasz Pisula, who said: “With the development of the Polish economy, we definitely started seeing more companies coming here not only to simply produce something of, let’s say mass quality, but actually produce some things that are of higher added value, more sophisticated products.”
Euronews’ Chris Burns asked Pisula about what the agency is doing to make it better for start-ups to start up here.
“We actually have about half a billion US dollars – the equivalent thereof – for the seed phase,” he said.
When asked how the special economic zones were benefiting foreign direct investment, Pisula said: “We try to roll the red carpet out to every foreign investor.”
“However, if he actually brings in, let’s say, a sophisticated technology which in the long term benefits the Polish economy, helps to develop the Polish labour force for example, then we try to provide additional incentives. We try to basically try to make things happen for him.”
In another Special Economic Zone, the snack food giant Mondelēz has a research, development and quality centre in an area full of international companies. With workers from around the world, the centre develops new products and tests existing ones, taking into account local and regional tastes.
“Forty percent of the team we have here are foreigners coming from 27 countries of four continents,” explained Adam Gajewski, Director RDQ, Mondelez International.
“And in Poland, we also have very good access to a rich pool of talented technological or technical professionals.”
“The more international companies come to Poland, the more tempting and attractive it is for others to come?,” asked Burns.
“Yes, it is a snowball effect. You know, we have more and more international companies establishing a business in this very area, but we were one of the first ones,” said Gajewski.