Ivanec: What can Best Microcity for Investment Teach Rest of Croatia?

Lauren Simmonds

From 2014 to 2018, Ivanec has withdrawn more than 20 million kuna from European Union Funds, and the project “Aglomeracija Ivanec” is about to go ahead, with an enormous price tag of 130 million kuna attached to it.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/PD i VL native tim writes on the 10th of June, 2019, in the Ivanec-east (Ivanec-istok) business zone, there are currently two major exporters about to open their new production halls and logistics facilities, and a large German-Croatian company completed its fourth hall there, and has since been actively engaged in export production. In addition, new investors are entering both zones in the town. These are just some of the economic activities currently taking place in this otherwise totally unassuming part of Croatia.

“With the city company Poslovna zona d.o.o., investors have been sold nearly all of the commercial land owned by the zones. That has encouraged us to meet the new demands of potential foreign investors, among which some are exceptionally respectable in terms of their business plans. Ivanec has one of the lowest unemployment rates in Croatia – just two percent! The economy is growing, and the Ivanec area is burdened by the all-Croatian problem: a lack of workforce,” recalled Ivanec’s mayor, Milorad Batinić.

The fact that something has been ”going on” for quite some time in this part of Croatia, and that that ”something” is indeed worthwhile, was confirmed by the interest of no less than the highly respected Financial Times, which recognised Ivanec as an absolutely excellent place to invest. That isn’t usually a sentence you hear about anywhere in Croatia. This is, according to Ivanec’s city administration, thanks to a whole host of carefully elaborated and targeted policies that have been being created and developed for a good ten years now, and all of Ivanec’s strengths have been directed towards just one, main strategic goal – to create a favourable business climate.

“These policies were profiled as a strategy, and the Financial Times recognised them back in 2014/2015, placing Ivanec among the ten ”microcities” in Europe with the best strategies for attracting and encouraging direct foreign investment.

Two years later, they declared us the winner in this category and recommended Ivanec as the most desirable European investment destination in the category of microcities, those who think that all this can be achieved overnight are very much mistaken. It all required external work from everyone involved in these processes, it included extremely demanding training according to international certification criteria, and working outside of working hours,” the mayor added.

The development of a systematised and highly standardised favourable business environment in Ivanec has been formalised over the past few years through the international BFC (Business Friendly Certification) project, which is carried out by the German Government, US AID and other foreign partners in the so-called transitional countries of SE Europe.

Ivanec is the only Croatian city which, beginning back in 2012, has continued to confirm its positive business orientation and its business friendly system within both its city administration and its city-based organisations successfully. It does so every three years with the appropriate recertification.

In day-to-day business, this is accomplished in a way that sees Ivanec as a partner in business, through a whole range of services, grants and capital projects that directly and indirectly encourage the development of MSPs. Encouraged by the negative trend of young people leaving Croatia over the past few years, in the past two years, Ivanec has been systematically engaged in its local entrepreneurial community.

”Thanks to access to EU funds, a project has been implemented in which ”beginner entrepreneurs” can access business mentoring services, specialist training, can be promoted at business fairs and on IvanecBiz.com. Most importantly, this year we’re offering them the opportunity to enter the entrepreneurial incubator without having to pay rent, it’s 100 percent free of charge and there are 100 percent free administrative and consultancy services.

The unemployment rate last year [in Ivanec] was four percent, this year it’s even lower, at two percent. In the case of Ivanec, this means that, on average, the number of unemployed people registered in the system is below 200 people,” Batinić said.

With the aim of developing the city and infrastructure in the period from 2014 to 2018, more than 20 million kuna has been withdrawn by Ivanec for about 70 different projects.

In addition to enjoying an incredibly low unemployment rate, being declared as the best microcity for investment in all of Europe by the Financial Times, and having a lot to teach the rest of the country, Ivanec has also been experiencing a baby boom, in stark contrast to the rest of Croatia, the demographic picture of which continues to darken.

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