May 15, 2023 – If they do not say Međimurje, they say ‘Mala Švicarska’ or ‘little Switzerland.’ It enjoys this nickname bestowed upon it on account of its openness to new technologies and developments, richness in natural resources and entrepreneurial mindset. This has been attracting foreign investments for years – in fact, the Financial Times has recognized the county not once or twice but on four occasions. The latest achievement was the European Cities and Regions of the Future award, which placed Međimurje among the best regions for investments in Europe.
With this article, I aim at extracting values to which may attract investors and which are unique to the region and people of Međimurje, the northernmost and smallest but also most densely populated Croatian county.
What makes Međimurje different?
- Geostrategic location
Situated at the crossroads of major transportation routes, Međimurje has an excellent connection to major markets in Europe. The vicinity of capitals such as Zagreb, Budapest and Vienna plays a crucial role, in addition to the fact that Međimurje, bordered by the rivers of Mura and Drava, has historically been a pertinent hub for commerce and trade and a pivotal center for agriculture and industry. The county’s access to the several major transportation routes further speaks of its strategic importance, especially for international trade and logistics.
- Healthy & competitive business environment
Međimurje has a magnificently diverse business scenery. It is teeming with both small and large family businesses, while at the same time hosting multinational companies such as Leggett & Platt, Hilding Anders, Calzedonia and Haix. As such, this small region is full of big opportunities no matter the size, form, or industry. The choices are many. But not only has the potential of Međimurje been confirmed by the presence of giants but it also allows for potential cooperation with family-owned lucrative businesses.
- Highly educated & skilled workforce
Međimurje is home to smart and hard-working people. It is where one of the best high schools in the country are situated and where hard work is traditionally admired and practiced. Since Međimurje has historically enjoyed fertile lands suitable for agricultural production which represented the main source of income for many families, hard work has been passed on to the future generations that witnessed or listened about their parents or grandparents who spent hours and hours out in the fields of potato.
- Strong tradition of family-owned businesses
It is well-known that family businesses are the backbone of the global economy, but they are also a cornerstone of Međimurje’s economy. Not only is there a long tradition of family-owned businesses in this region, but they are also across a variety of industries and in different sizes, from mom-and-pop operated businesses to huge companies with hundreds of employees. These businesses have sustainability and social responsibility rooted in their existence with strong ties to the local community.
All these four distinctive qualities, especially when found in one place, may represent a formula for prosperity. Thus, they may well be the reason behind the high potential of a few investment areas in Međimurje.
What areas are high-potential investment areas in Međimurje?
With an agricultural sector strong in all segments, including production, processing, and distribution, Međimurje is famous for its wine production and fruit and vegetable growing, all heavily focused on organic farming. Additionally, most of the agricultural businesses are family-owned and bring in the valuable factor of tradition which is absent from many mass-production agricultural businesses.
Breath-taking natural scenery combined with abundant cultural heritage and warm and welcoming people makes Međimurje very prone to having a successful tourism sector. Even more so, the heavy presence of entrepreneurial spirit in Međimurje, and specifically family-owned businesses, combined with its potential for tourism, allows for many great thriving business stories. A great example are families who own vineyards and produce wine, while at the same time invest in special experiences such as camping in the vineyards and drinking wine, tasting delicious food and listening to live music on the hills with the views of Slovenia and Hungary. Earlier this year, Međimurje won the silver Green Destination award at the biggest tourism fair in the world, the ITB Berlin, thereby becoming the first Croatian and fourth world’s region to make the Green Destinations certification list. This again speaks of the region’s promising potential in the tourism sector.
Considering its size, one can easily call Međimurje an industrial hub. Be it manufacturing or processing, metal, food or textile and footwear industry, you can find it all in Međimurje. Common to all these industries, for instance, is that generations and generations have been gathering experience, knowledge, and skills, as the first meaningful steps were taken hundreds of years ago by their ancestors. Also, there is a research and development institution, Metal Centre Čakovec, devoted to the fields of technologies and processes in the metal industry.
- Real estate
There is a constant demand for residential and commercial properties, especially in urban areas such as the cities of Čakovec and Prelog. Many such properties have been built in the last decade, but the demand has only been increasing. Additionally, Međimurje has a very strong construction industry and is home to a growing number of construction companies, most of which have been present on the market for decades.
Besides a heavy focus on technology in general, Međimurje has a well-developed IT infrastructure, and the number of IT businesses is increasing annually. A wide range of industries has additionally made the IT sector growing and prospering as there are numerous overlaps and areas where the potential for cooperation is immense. However, these IT services do not only stay within the borders of Međimurje as the export of IT services internationally is high. Furthermore, a community college in Čakovec offers the study of computer sciences, thereby allowing the youth to study and work locally where the IT sector is certainly on the rise. Lastly, there is Technology-Innovation Centre Međimurje which helps innovative hi-tech entrepreneurs with their technologically advanced business ideas.
All in all, the future of investment in Međimurje is very bright and the potential of fruitful opportunities are sky-high. This region boasts an admirable development in multiple investment areas, all of which are interdependent and interconnected, thereby enabling Međimurje, which is unique in many ways, to fully benefit from its position. All these different areas can be working in harmony, complementing each other. It goes without saying that agricultural sector, for instance, can very well cooperate with tourism in Međimurje. The smarter Međimurje uses its advantages, the more successful and productive region it will be.
With its rich history, stunning natural scenery, and favorable entrepreneurial environment Međimurje sounds like a mecca for foreign investors. But is it really?
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