Sunday, August 4, 2013

FROM TOURISM TO TECHNOLOGY – the business potential of Krakow

Krakow is internationally renowned for its heritage, culture and history. It was one of the first cities to be listed a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been the main tourist destination in Poland for decades. Since Poland joined the European Union in 2004, Krakow has also become one of the country’s top destinations for Business Service Centres. In 2012 the city was listed among the most attractive global cities in a joined report from the Economist and Citi Bank. International outsourcing, new business parks and a candidature for the Winter Olympics 2022 – Poland’s second biggest city is emerging as one of the fastest growing hot spots in the world. Today it is the city’s potential for business that puts Krakow in the international spotlight, and there are clear signs that local authorities and businesses have the vision and ambition to support further development.

As the main tourist destination in Poland, Krakow has seen millions of visitors exploring the historic streets around the Rynek square in the old town and around the Wavel Castle. In 2012 almost three million people visited Krakow from abroad (out of 9 million visitors). Together with Warsaw, Krakow has been the one city in Poland where you hear foreign languages mixed with Polish on the streets. In recent years, however, the city has also started to attract a new kind of visitor: business professionals. More than 3000 foreigners are currently working in the city just in the outsourcing sector. The new foregin residents have moved here to work for international companies like HSBC Bank, IBM, Motorola, Shell, UPS, Capgemini, Google, State Street and Hitachi.  This year Deutsche Telecom will open an Innovation Hub centre in the city that will focus on start-ups in Eastern and Central Europe. In 2013 Krakow was ranked among top 10 global outsourcing hubs by Tholons report. In Europe, only Dublin can compete with Krakow with number of businesses operating in busines processes outsourcing area.  The city has the second largest concentration of foreign companies and A-class office buildings in Poland, after Warsaw. With a number of strategic developments underway, the business infrastructure is catching up with that of the capital and investment in modern office real estate has shown great potential. There are now a number of modern business parks around the city (Olsza, Zabłocie, Zabierzów, Płaszów and Bronowice) serving international companies relocating to Krakow.

Poland’s Silicon Valley?

The explosion of mobile and web-based technologies has meant that Western technology companies need to look further to fill their growing demand for skilled IT specialists, and Krakow has a great deal to offer. There are over 8000 graduates from IT related studies each year. Further advantages are relatively low costs of living and operating businesses plus excellent flight connections to almost every country in Europe. Investors and entrepreneurs from traditional tech hubs in California’s Silicon Valley have shown interest in Krakow, and many local software development agencies now serve a number of clients from the US and Western Europe. There is also significant growth in video game design and development, web design, mobile applications and bioinformatics. In addition there is a high concentration of digital media (Poland’s largest web news portals, Onet and Interia, are both based in Krakow) and an emerging start-up community.

Consequently, it is not surprising that a number of IT companies have opened branches in Krakow in the last decade, including Google, Cisco, Nokia, Motorola, Delphi, Sabre and Making Waves. Making Waves, a Norwegian design and technology company, is an interesting case in point. They opened a small outsourcing office in Krakow in 2005; today, they are a large development centre with access to a team of experienced, qualified developers, IT specialists and web content producers serving clients in many European languages. One of their flagship projects, Noway’s official travel portal www.visitnorway.com, is delivered in nine languages from Krakow by a multinational team of content specialists working closely with Innovation Norway offices in various countries. Last year FIFA chose to collaborate with Making Waves from their Zurich based head office. The success story of Making Waves shows that Krakow has become an attractive destination not just for outsourcing, but for setting up offices with international operations.

Real Estate: Need for Modern Apartments and Office Space

With the influx of foreigners working in the city’s BPO and IT sector, and exapts living in the city there is a growing demand for modern apartments in the city center. Last year several interesting developments started in the core city, integrated within the old otwn. Perhaps the most interesting is the Lubicz Brewery project revitilizing the historic brewery area with Loft style apartments and commercial space, just 10 minutes walk from the main square Rynek. Nearby there is a large modern gated development by Hines Group – Novum project with.  Underneath the Wawel Castle hill the new Angel complex of modern apartments integrated within heritage monastery building will revitilize Dietla street. By Vistula river, facing old banks of Kazimierz there’s Nadwislanska11 a project revitilizing a Podgorze banks of the rvier, on the former site of the factory and behind the newly constructed Kantor museum. Facing the river there is also an architectural award winning Wislane Tarasy complex of 6 apartment buildings when completed . Across the river there is Zablocie- a former industrial area revitalized with new museums, business parks and Mlyn Lofts develpment.

On the office space horizon there are several interesting developments  that will almost double modern office space in the city when completed; including new Quatro Business Park towers, buildinds at Bonarka for Business, Orange Business Park, Krakow Technology Park or Alma Tower. In 2014 the city is anticipating to resume construction work on Treimorfa tower that when completed will be the largest office complex in Krakow center.

Further Exciting Developments in the city

Apart from the growth in technology based businesses, several other exciting developments are currently in process. The city is building an international congress centre to meet the demand of the international conference industry. With a central location just across the river from the Wawel castle, the centre will host both business and academic events from around the world. The modern, sleek architecture of the building stands in stark contrast to the medieval old town. The grand opening is scheduled for autumn 2014 and the first international conventions are already booked. On the other side of the city centre there is a cluster of cranes constructing a modern sports arena for large sporting events and exhibitions. Krakow has already been named the 2014 European City of Sports by the European Commission.

Krakow of the future: The Winter Olympics 2022?

Perhaps Krakow’s most exciting prospect is that the city council and the Malopolska region, together with a Slovakian partner, have applied to host the Winter Olympics 2022. Krakow will compete with Barcelona, Nice and Oslo to win the first Olympic event for Poland. The city’s 10 year investment strategy was drawn up with the Olympics in mind and includes a number of bold developments. The Malopolska region is modernising the train station and developing a brand new international terminal at Krakow’s airport with a capacity of serving up to eight million passengers annually. Now there are plans to construct the city’s first underground line that will connect the west and east parts of the city, the old town and the modern business park around Olsza and the Aquapark leisure centre. By the end of 2013, the city also plans to launch a metropolitan rail network that will connect the Krakow city centre with the suburbs and surrounding towns.

The Olympic village, high speed rail to the Tatra mountains and new hotels will follow. Although Krakow has high concentration of hotels comparing to other Polish cities outside of Warsaw, it is still below European avarage.  The investment strategy will further strengthen the Krakow brand internationally, and after the success of UEFA 2012 championship, Poland’s chance to win the Olympic bid is more likely than ever. We keep our fingers crossed. Krakow of 2022 deserves to be a real cosmopolitan international city recognised not only for its history and heritage but also for business and human potential.

By: Michal J. Steckiw  28/02/2013


This is a repost of a post on the website of mjs-creative.com

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