Katowice has changed its game plan for building its image as a favored destination for foreign investment. Instead of going head-to-head with rivals Wrocław, Gdańsk, or Warsaw, the City has pioneered the creation of a regional brand – Upper Silesia – that unites the 14 adjacent cities and re-asserts the region as a powerhouse in Poland.
With a population of 2 million in an area of 1 218 square kilometres, the region boasts the highest population density in Europe. The human capital of the region is both a deep source of welleducated, skilled labor that supports a robust and increasingly-sophisticated manufacturing base – as well as a source of sales for major retailers, shopping centre developers, and residential real estate investors.
The Metropolitan Association of Upper Silesia include Świetochłowice, Siemianowice Śląskie, and Piekary Śląskie, as well as Bytom, Chorzów, Dąbrowa Górnicza, Gliwice, Jaworzno, Katowice, Mysłowice, Ruda Śląska, Sosnowiec, Tychy, and Zabrze.
The region has long played a significant role in Europe’s energy sector, with 60 coal mines in the region, including Kompania Węglowa, Europe’s largest coal producer. Industries such as coal, metallurgy, and manufacturing continue to dominate the region, providing a healthy tax base that supports its continued infrastructure development. Yet the region’s historically important industries are giving way to more hi-tech and human resource-intensive sectors, such as outsourcing centres and IT and software development. Display Link, for example, is a privately-held company has opened its Research & Development centre in Katowice, attracted by the good quality of Polish engineers.
Other companies, such as Kroll OnTrack, have tapped the local labor pool – the region has more than 28 universities and 143 000 students – to help develop IT and software solutions that are sold world-wide. Labor costs are approximately 5 times lower than in Germany.
The region’s road infrastructure is probably the best in Poland – and the rail and air links are developing quickly. The TransEuropean Corridor III (Berlin-Wrocław-Katowice-Kraków-Lvov) (A4 in Poland) passes through the region from west to east, and the TransEuropean Corridor IV (Gdańsk-Katowice-Zylina-Bratislava-Vienna) (A1) runs south to north, linking Vienna to the Baltic sea port of Gdańsk. The raw numbers support the theory that the region is becoming a major transportation corridor – cargo transport at the Katowice International Airport has grown 95% in the last two years. Passengers can connect to 34 international destinations on 170 flights per week.
The Katowice Railway Station has entered into a major redevelopment plan with Spain’s Neinver to transform the station from shame to fame. Due to re-open in spring 2012 – just before the Euro 2012 football championships – the Station’s redevelopment plans include a complete rebuild of the passenger station, development of modern retail services, and erection of a major modern office building.
The region’s cities, the Metropolitan Association of Upper Silesia, and the Katowice Special Economic Zone are supporting development, through a combination of tax subsidies and incentives, and intensive support of investors who create jobs and opportunities for the region. The Katowice Zone was established in 1996, and many automotive, computer, and building companies, such as GM Opel, NGK Ceramics and TRW Braking Systems have their offices in this tax-advantaged zone, and its sub-zone in Gliwice.
Local authorities recognize that quality-of-life translates into better long-term profits. The region’s initiatives, such as plans to build the Museum of Silesia, continue to expand its appeal to families and young professionals. The city of Katowice has initiated a major City Centre redevelopment scheme, due to start in 2011, and transform the city centre into a pedestrian-friendly zone.
Lastly, the supply of modern office space is set to increase by half in the next years, as Swedish, Dutch, and domestic developers recognize the region’s demand for quality offices. New A-class office projects that are being developed in Katowice, in stages, include Atrium (10 250 sq. m), Reinhold Center (8 635 sq. m – I phase), Francuska Office Center (21 700 sq. m), Katowice Business Point (17 200 sq. m), and planned Silesia Towers (21 500 sq. m – I phase), and Silesia Business Park (11 040 sq. m – I phase).