The FINANCIAL -- Urban Linkages and Connectivity, Competitiveness, Liveability and Good
Governance of cities were the main topics discussed at the sixth Local
Economic Development Forum held in Tbilisi .
National and international experts from the private and public sectors as well as from civil society exchanged ideas and experiences, and set goals for future cooperation and development at the sessions of the two-day forum. More than 80 representatives of about 20 countries as well as the mayors of Cairo, Juba, Nairobi and Vilnius attended the forum. They discussed and developed visions of how to build ‘Cities of Tomorrow’.
“What does good infrastructure mean for attracting businesses?” said Zviad Archuadze, Head of the Economic Affairs Office, Tbilisi City Hall. “This will be one of the main issues discussed at the forum. In the other sessions the mayors of Cairo and Juba will talk about their experiences and challenges. We will share our experience with them as well. This will be additionally useful for those in the private sector that consider Africa a good potential place to export Georgian products to.
“This forum is a good chance for me to be able to give my city something useful,” said Mohamed Elhaj Baballa Laala, Mayor of Juba. “Juba is going to benefit from Georgia’s experience. This gives me, as Juba’s Mayor, the opportunity to take a step toward my city’s further development. And at the same time this forum is helping me to spread awareness of South Sudan.”
“I signed an agreement of cooperation with Gigi Ugulava,” said Abdeleawi Khalifa, Governor of Cairo. “We will exchange our experience. I have seen good development and improvement in Tbilisi over the past several years. The level of democracy and transparency is increasing. Tbilisi and Cairo have more or less similar problems. We have overcome some challenges and we will share our experience with Tbilisi . I’d be very pleased if the Tbilisi delegation visited Cairo.”
‘Attracting Businesses to a City’ was one of the main topics discussed at the forum. Courtney Fingar, Editor of FDI magazine, Mariusz Sagan, Director of the Department of Strategy and Investors Services for the City of Lublin, Douglas Clark, Director of Location Connections, UK, and Uta Beyer, Head of the German Business Association Georgia, shared their experience and recommendations with the representatives of the Georgian public and private sectors.
“Building a good strategy is one of the main factors for attracting businesses,” said Mariusz Sagan, Director of the Department of Strategy and Investors Services for the City of Lublin. “Lublin has a very good strategy and it develops according to this strategy. But it was we, a group of more than 100 representatives of the city, who wrote the strategy ourselves, not foreign experts. I advise Tbilisi to do the same.”
“The main goal of the Lublin strategy was building a diversified and flexible economy based on modern industry and services. The main challenge of this strategy was how to support local industry development. This was quite difficult as residents of Lublin don’t tend to start their own businesses. This is due to the large size of the state sector. Building business spirit in people is necessary from the start. We are making our young generation become used to business ideas at school. We are pushing the state sector to support good ideas, to grant good ideas and initiatives. At the same time, we support business clusters,” he explained.
This strategy has worked quite well for Lublin claims Mariusz Sagan, and he advises Tbilisi to do the same. Lublin is quite a developed city today and is continuing in this way. One of the key factors in its success has been supporting good initiatives and implementing them. Lublin currently has a highly developed IT system which was created by local people. They even have an e-court system.
Douglas Clark, Director of Location Connections, is an advisor to investors. He investigates and advises businesses on which countries will be profitable to invest in.
“I have 7 criteria for choosing a proper place to invest in and they are: talent tab, champion companies, super connection, value balance, on brand, life support, property ladder and talent supply,” Clark stated. “I investigate the people first, as almost 60 percent of investments go to staff. In regards to Tbilisi , I think that the main wealth of Tbilisi is its people. People enjoy living here. Businessmen can make money here and at the same time have a good time.”
“I like Tbilisi and its motto “The City That Loves You”. But this has to be promoted more. The city has to be popular as a brand. Tbilisi has to become as friendly as possible.”
Good, cheap transportation and a good communication system are crucial for attracting businesses to the city according to Clark. There have to be direct flights to the city. But at the same time routes and public transportation must be developed as well.
“Investors are interested in if public transport is widely used or whether the majority of residents have private cars. Investors like it if people are using public transport and if the roads aren’t too congested with traffic. I see that the residents of Tbilisi love cars. I do too. But investors think otherwise. The ecological situation is also essential.”
“When I go to a new city to evaluate it, I take a taxi from the Airport and move in to the city, observing everything on my way,” Douglas Clark said. “This experience is very important for my further conclusions. Tbilisi is well-lit at night and this works well in its favour.”
Investors have ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ factors that they take in to account when choosing a place to invest according to Uta Beyer, Head of the German Business Association Georgia. They have a set of criteria of 26 hard factors which include: if the business place is near the consumer and provider, contact with local companies, price and qualification of human resources, access to commercial spaces, local transportation, labs, existence of business chambers, the people, and more.
Uta Beyer also talked about the soft factors which are important to some German companies when coming to Georgia.
“The soft factors are the face of the city, types of flats, places of rest and relaxation, schools and universities, doctors’ knowledge of English, if the environment is polluted etc,” she explained. “Claus Hipp told me that the country’s people are a soft factor when entering Georgia. The local people are non-bureaucratic, want to be independent, want to be free, tend to be well educated, international-thinking, are interested in everything new, are friendly and open.”
Angeles Tegtmeyer, Director of Schuchman wines, said that the aspects she most liked about the country were: the wonderful people, beautiful nature and landscapes, difference between urban and rural areas, religiousness, unique wine tradition, and people being connected to nature. So these are the main soft factors that most investors like about Georgia and therefore these aspects should be nurtured and developed.
“In general I like the way Tbilisi is attracting businesses, but this has to increase. For example commerce chambers have to become stronger. The French and American chambers of commerce as well as the Georgian Chamber of Commerce are attracting businesses quite well, but they have to support the development of these businesses in the future as well. They have to keep these businesses in the country. More intensive work in this direction is very important for the continued and future development of Georgia.”