By Iosif Poplavsky
This was the second ‘northern’ fair, with Smorgon taking the baton from last year’s host, Oshmyany. The Deputy Chairman of the Grodno Regional Executive Committee, Alexander Rusanov, notes that the idea is well grounded, “The Grodno Region’s northern lands are unique in their geographical position, while boasting motorways and railways and large enterprises with well qualified staff. However, analysing the economies of these three districts, there are some omissions — especially regarding the attraction of foreign investments. A strong impetus was needed, so we decided to organise a fair and forum. Figures now speak for themselves. Last year, just 69 companies with Lithuanian capital were registered in the Grodno Region; in 2011, their number reached 120. We’re also closely liaising with Polish businessmen; there are now 129 firms with their participation, against 78 in the past. Importantly, the initiative to attract investors has been demonstrated at district level — including in Smorgon, Oshmyany and Ostrovets.”
This time, the Northern Vector fair featured 54 projects, as yet being studied by foreign guests. No immediate investments have been settled but some agreements have been signed during the Economic Forum. For example, the Smorgon District Executive Committee has signed an agreement with Syrian businessmen to build a cheese making plant, while Oshmyany has joined Lithuanian Ukmerge in signing a draft co-operative agreement to ensure safe traffic. The Deputy Head of the Lidzbark Warminski District of Poland’s Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship, Jaroslaw Kogut, has signed an agreement with the Ostrovets District, explaining, “It’s my second time at the Northern Vector. I initially wanted to look closer but am now ready to conduct definite projects. One of the proposals deals with the construction of a package making facility; I have a businessman with me who’s keen to study the opportunity. We’re also interested in joint ecological and cultural projects, in addition to exchanging delegations of young people and teachers.”
Next year, the fair is to be hosted by Ostrovets but the programme for the Grodno Region’s development goes far beyond these plans. Forum participants have debated the possible establishment of a free economic zone. Mr. Rusanov stresses that this could be realised, helping attract investments. The Grodno Region’s southern districts are also ready to join a FEZ (centred in Slonim).
The Grodno Region’s northern area includes three districts: Smorgon, Ostrovets and Oshmyany. 115,000 people live over an area of 4,300 square kilometres, while the Minsk-Vilnius international transport corridor passes through these three districts.