In February the AmCham Manufacturing Committee hosted speaker Ilona Antoniszyn-Klik, Deputy Minister of Economy, who talked about the ministry’s priorities in developing R&D and the innovation-based economy in 2015.
Antoniszyn-Klik said that the Ministry of Economy will financially support Polish companies that seek partners in the US and other competitive markets. AmCham may play a role in helping those Polish companies find the right partners in the US. The ministry takes part in Select USA, a US government program to attract new investors to America, by helping Polish companies link with companies in the US. Antoniszyn-Klik said there is room here for the ministry and AmCham to cooperate, especially when “there will be more and more Polish companies interested in going to the US.”
Last year the government amended the law governing the services that special economic zones provide to companies investing in the zones. There is now more emphasis put by the government on developing SEZ land with easy access to expressways and good road infrastructure. Thus some new SEZ land will be developed for investors along the S3, S6, S7, S8 and S17 highways. Local governments along those roads are supposed to prepare proper infrastructure for investors and help provide a valuable package of services for investors.
The government also plans to reindustrialize parts of Silesia and western areas of Małopolska province. Under this program, land owned by state companies will be offered to investors for the first time in many years. This comes as a result of recent amendments to the law, which now allows land of state-owned companies to be included in special economic zones. This was the government’s response to the shrinking space for new investors in such regions as Małopolska.
Yet, not all types of modern development projects are valued the same everywhere. When it comes to shared services centers, for example, they are not perceived as interesting in certain areas such as Silesia because they cater to only a specific group of potential employees, young people at the beginning of their professional careers. Meanwhile, in Silesia, where many coal mines are going to be closed, there is a growing need for investments that will redeploy individuals with a background in heavy industry.
The deputy minister said that big companies are not supposed to obtain any financial aid under the programs managed by province governments in the 2014–2020 financial perspective. However, they still can tap into some EU structural funds that are managed by the Ministry of Economy. Among them is Infrastructure and Environment, a program aimed at helping build sustainable energy sources. Its goal is to promote renewable energy sources, the smart grid, storage and transmission of energy, and integration of renewable sources of energy into the main grid.
Antoniszyn-Klik noted that eastern Poland is the best area where foreign direct investors may get financial aid in terms of the conditions that investors have to meet. She cautioned, however, that Poland is no longer a good place for companies interested in developing simple manufacturing facilities. Wages in Poland are too high now compared with Bulgaria and Romania, two countries in the EU which are good places for investing in non-complex manufacturing.
She said that instead, Poland needs to attract investors in more complex industries with high innovation levels, as not too many such investors chose Poland in the previous 20 years. One added value Poland may offer to such investors is to locate in innovation clusters with hopes for synergy with other investors there. She said the ministry is looking for more interconnections between Polish and foreign companies, especially those from the US, to engage in deeper business relations.
Antoniszyn-Klik said that for American companies there are opportunities to get involved in reforming Poland’s vocational education by making room for apprentices who want to learn the ropes as part of their school programs. All that the ministry needs to know is what types of jobs need to be staffed so reformers of the vocational education system can create curricula for the specialists that are in demand.