Europe’s Quiet Star
While most european countries
spent 2010 mired in economic chaos, one player
continued its under-the-radar rise. poland may not
have gotten the ink, but it’s emerging as one of the
continent’s most promising players.
poland’s GDp increased 3. 8 percent last year—up
from a 1. 7 percent bump in 2009, when it was the
only european union (eu) country to grow.
already an it up-and-comer, poland is making
its mark in construction, with the sector expected to
expand an estimated 14. 5 percent in 2011, according to construction magazine Building. that growth
comes on top of the 20 percent jump in civil engineering projects during each of the past three years.
much of the highest-profile work is tied to poland’s
preparation for the euro 2012 football tournament,
which it is co-hosting with neighbor ukraine. While
the latter nation has stumbled repeatedly during
preparations, poland has had a relatively smooth ride.
one stadium in the city of poznan opened in september 2010, and another in Gdansk is slated to be
ready to host a match in June.
While the stadiums have been the most publicized of the euro 2012 preparations, it’s the ancillary
projects that may present the best long-term opportunities for polish project managers.
rail stations in Katowice and Wroclaw, for exam-
ple, are undergoing massive renovation projects.
“euro 2012 boosted investments in many host
cities,” Wroclaw mayor rafał Dutkiewicz said at a
press conference. “For eight years i pushed for the
reconstruction of our railway station, but without
success. now we will have a new one in 2012.”
the country has been forced to make some
concessions, however. in 2007, when it was awarded
euro 2012, the government envisioned more than
3,000 kilometers ( 1,864 miles) of new highways,
along with other transportation projects.
in the years since, reality has set in. poland’s
government has reduced spending to curtail public
debt. as a result, 45 road projects were canceled in
the second half of 2010, and recent estimates put the
total new road build-out at a mere 1,800 kilometers
( 1,118 miles)—at best—by tournament time.
in January, prime minister Donald tusk vowed
that work would continue on infrastructure projects,
even if they wouldn’t be ready in time for euro 2012.
EUROPE’S SILICON VALLEY?
along with the euro 2012 construction preparations
and associated infrastructure projects, poland has also
been quietly emerging as a tech hotspot.
in 2008, the country launched Digital poland,
a comprehensive it campaign aimed at creating a
high-speed nationwide broadband network, issuing
digital identification cards, digitizing government
records and establishing e-government services. prog-
ress has been slow, but that should change with a
boost of eu funding over the next five years.
the Digital poland efforts also aim to encourage
public-private ventures. state-owned electric com-
pany pGe s.a., for example, teamed up with private
consultancy marketplanet on a project to create an
electronic centralized purchase-management system
that saved pGe pln30 million in 2010 alone.
in the private sector, spending on it service proj-
ects is expected to soar from $3.4 billion in 2011 to
$5.4 billion by 2015. overall it spending in poland
is expected to jump 11 percent between 2011 and
2015, according to a market publishers report.
on the outsourcing front, poland hasn’t taken
over india’s top slot—yet. it did rank among the top
30 countries identified by Gartner inc., and three
polish cities cracked the list of top 100 outsourcing
that could translate to career opportunities for
project managers. luxoft, for example, recently
opened a development center in Krakow, looking to
tap into the area’s deep pool of highly skilled it engi-
neers with multiple-language capabilities.
poland lags in one key area, however: innova-
tion. an eu study published in February ranked the
country 22nd out of 27 countries surveyed when it
came to investment in research and development. its
companies invest the least of any eu nation in new
product development projects.
poland is trying to reverse that trend, with iBm
and Wroclaw university of technology announcing
they’ve partnered to create more than 10 new courses
to help students gain expertise in a variety of tech
sectors, including cloud computing.
the nation’s patent office also posted a 12 percent
rise in applications in 2010, prompting Jerzy langer
of the polish academy of sciences to say, “While
poland still lags behind the rest of europe [in innova-tion], something has finally shifted for the better.”
—Donovan Burba & Sylvia Wolak