Posts Tagged ‘Poland’


Polish ICT presentations in Chicago

Thursday 8 November, 2012

The Polish American Chamber of Commerce in Chicago hosted a delegation of ICT companies visiting from Gdansk, Poland @ the IIT Technology Center.  Over a dozen companies came over to make presentations along with almost the same number of representatives from Invest in Gdansk.  The presentations were streamed live @ AR TV Chicago . Here are the presenters & their bios gdanskoct2012 The organizer said he would send me the presentations, but I have yet to receive them.

The Polish Trade Minister-Counselor based in Washington, D.C. made a brief presentation on their role in trade & investment.  They have 50 offices world-wide, & in the US encourage Polish companies to export more to the US than the US imports from Poland, which is the case today .  Polish firms invested about $500M in foreign direct investment in America in 2011 to widen their footprints in the US.  These companies employ at least 6K workers in the US.  America foreign direct investment in Poland has been up & down, but comes in all over Poland, for R&D centers & other uses.  Poland’s GDP reached $.5TR with 2-4% growth & a population the size of California (38M).  Poland hopes to create 50 Tech Parks in the next decade.  It took a generation or 20-25 years, for Europe to recover from World War II.  Polish leaders believe that they are @ such an inflection point after the fall of the Berlin Wall.


central & eastern Europe business conference

Tuesday 15 March, 2011

The College of Business & Management @ Northeastern Illinois University sponsored the EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS CONFERENCE , which featured speakers over from Poland & representatives from all over central & eastern Europe.  Here’s a quick summary of 2 days of presentations.

Professor Felicjan Bilok of the Czestochowa University of Technology took a look @ trade unions demise in Poland, whose membership dropped from 38% in 1999 to 16% in 2008, while other countries only dropped 1-8%.  Union strongholds still exist in state-owned-enterprises, (35%), & for mid-level staff & technicians (37%).  Employees @ privately owned companies are only 1% unionized.

Dr. Leszek Cichoblazinski, also of the Czestochowa University of Technology, followed up on the labor relations theme by discussing his experience in mediating labor disputes, which is obligatory in Poland before strikes.  He used the example of spilled hot coffee resulting in a global installation of machines (instead of kettles) which the local workers rejected because it offered less choice in types of coffee & tea.

Dr. Hamid Adbari of NEIU offered a review of the book The Next 100 Years & how it applies to countries throughout the world, which hinges on access to water.  The US, Poland, Turkey, & Mexico are up, while China (isolated, inaccessible, unstable coasts with no naval power), Japan (dependent, looking for labor), & Germany will fall down.

I had to head out for a flight out of town, so the rest is contributed by Dean S. Santopoalo, Development Coach with Focused In Leadership in Chicago.

Prof. Pawel Pietrasienski of the Warsaw School of Economics spoke of using ethnic chambers of commerce to establish trade relations and look to “train the trainer” and other programs to help companies learn how to work with international cultures and build relationships.

Atakan Arica of Arica International Corporation & Vice President of the Turkish American Chamber of Commerce asked “Why do we go overseas?”  To mitigate risks by approaching growth markets when others are down & gaining access to resources via joint ventures. But we should not expect people to do business the way we do.  Different levels of professionalism are evident in each region. Everyone has a different understanding of a business agreement and if you don’t have it on paper, it does not exist.

Michael L. Hetzel, President of Northern Galaxy Corporation noted that  America has lost some 2 million jobs to China, but what the news reporters have not mentioned is that China has lost 15 million jobs to other “lower cost” nations.  In 2010, there were 90,000 strikes in China, although they never received any news coverage.  Supply chain risks in overseas companies have to build inventory to compensate for the distance between manufacturing companies and their end markets, which says goodbye to J.I.T. The  industrialization challenge that China faces is a lack of infrastructure and that foreign markets need a local supply chain, which facilitates quicker production and time to market.

Martin J. Claessens of the U.S. Department of Commerce & Mary Roberts of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity gave their pitches to use the government’s help in approaching foreign markets, so I won’t repeat those here.

Mona Pearl, Founder & COO of Beyond A Strategy encouraged people to understand the unpredictability of different cultures, and that many cultures have developed around limited resources and knowledge, specifically the eastern nations that were governed under communism.  If a centralized style of governance is all someone ever knew from generation to generation, that thinking will take generations to change.

Milomir Ognjanovic, Economic Advisor to Consulate General of Republic of Serbia stated that the war of the 1990’s made the Serbs very tough, and less tolerant for undisciplined and privileged cultures.  This inclusive and independent demeanor resulted in Serbia acquiring a high amount of natural resources and incurring no real debt.  Serbia has petitioned for acceptance into the EU in 2011, but by joining the EU, they’ll have to open their borders to others that they might not want to work with. This is not because they do not like others within the EU, but because of their independent, inclusive nature and violent recent history.

Dr . Robert Donnorummo of the University of Pittsburgh intimated that countries in southeast Europe have not been doing as well as central Europeans because Southeast Europeans are farther from their main consumer goods market, Germany.   Privatization is necessary for capitalism within the region but that it may not be enough.  There must be an infrastructure based on laws, knowledge of contract negotiations, terms and conditions, for relations to exist.   Russia produces 1/3 of all natural gas and oil in that region, and no matter how independent one may be from the other, there will always be a common thread between Eastern Europe and Russia.  Europe needs Russia’s oil and gas. Russia needs Europe’s money. As long as those needs exist, so will the concept of trade.

Thanks Dean!


invest in eastern Poland?

Friday 22 October, 2010

I had a Business Magnet Luncheon/Conference with the Poles @ on the 44th floor of the John Hancock building where they were encouraging investment in eastern Poland, dubbed “the biggest construction site in Europe.”  They were promoting Business Magnet:  Local Investor Services Centres (Lokalne Centra Obsługi Inwestrów) which is essentially a free business matchmaking “vortal” based in Kielce.  The purpose of the vortal is to attract foreign investment, while the means is by creating this online resource.  The trade departments of each governor’s office is involved & they claim to provide data with transparency & accountability.  It already includes 28 member countries with an additional 20 to be added in the future.  I registered & created my profile but was not able to post an offer for my consulting services yet.  Now there appear to be a handful of parcels of land up on offer.  A number of the sections on the website are still under construction, so it is not ready for prime-time just yet.  Check back on a regular basis to see when it’s fully ready to go.

This initiative received the largest subsidy in the European Union for infrastructure improvement & investor support as part of the Project of Development of Eastern Europe/Structural Funds, 3M euros/$4M to fund the 700-800 employees, (including offices in Chicago, Toronto, China, & Brussels) required for this project for the next few years, so it will be around for awhile.  Eastern Poland forms the eastern border of the EU, so it is a strategically important geographic area.

I spent 5 months in eastern Poland after the wall fell counseling all-sized businesses on how to improve their sales & marketing, so I’m generally familiar with it’s risks & opportunities.  I’ve traveled to many of the principal cities in each of the provinces that are being promoted, Lublin, Rzeszow, Bialystok, Kielce, & Olstyn at least once for a minimum of a few days in each.  At the time, Poland was conceptually broken down into Poland A, in the west which was more closely allied with Germany, & Poland B, in the east which was more closely allied with Russia.  Given this dichotomy, it’s not surprising that Poland A was considered to be better educated, technologically advanced, & more primed for economic opportunity than Poland B.  That’s why Poland B is now seeking investment capital to catch up with Poland A.  Please contact me if you have specific questions.  I wrote a few articles on my experiences which also might be of interest:

Polish icon Lech Walesa will be in town next week.  For information about how you can meet him, click here.


belated BIO wrap-up

Wednesday 30 June, 2010

I attended the Bio show last month, which returned to Chicago after only 4 years, the fastest it’s ever returned to 1 location.  Despite the changes in the economy since the last time Bio was here, the numbers for this edition were up.  Surprisingly it appears as if the number of exhibitors has increased from 1600 to 1700 & attendees from 16,000 to 17,000.  While the content offered appears to have contracted from 24 Program Tracks down to 17, & 180 breakout sessions to 125, the Business Forums (Fora?) partnering meetings has increased dramatically from 10,000 to 14,000.  I heard Bio will be returning in 3 years to Chicago.  I hope that’s a lucky year for the city.

Four years ago I was blown away by how international this show was.  More than 25 different nations & regions sponsored pavilions, which made it easy to find what was happening on a country-by-country basis, but difficult to find information on specific technologies.  I’m not sure if people are as interested in technologies from particular countries as they are to solutions to their problems, regardless of their origins.  (I’ll comment on why I think the show is organized this way a little later.)  It looks like Chile & United Arab Emirates dropped out while Poland, South Africa, & Thailand  jumped into the fray.  This year, I gathered information from 23 national pavilions.  It seems as if 2 of the national pavilions I visited in 2006 expanded & 1 shrunk.  The Swiss pavilion expanded from 22 to 27, the Austrians from 11 more than doubling to 23.  Iceland dropped out of the Scandinavian Pavilion & other cross border initiatives made it unclear how much that pavilion shrank.  Other than the economic development agencies,  few of the exhibitors from 2006 returned in 2010, but that’s not surprising if they met their objectives 4 years ago.  Poland’s pavilion @  had an interesting promotional twist-they queried attendees about their vision of the future of biotech & made an online video about it.

My $.02-this is a different kind of event for a number of reasons.  It’s biotech, which is an important industry which has a frustratingly long time horizon, which means there are as many government players as there are business participants.  That’s partly why I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the number of attendees is 10 X the number of exhibitors.  If each exhibitor gets 10 attendee passes, that explains the correlation.  My impression is this show is much more incestuous than most.  By that I mean, although there were a number of small service provider exhibits,  this is not a trade show where exhibitors hawk their wares to passersby.  Rather it’s a gathering where government officials from American states & foreign countries try to entice their counterparts to come to their geography & set up shop.   I’m sure there are some attendees who are not exhibitors, but this is as much or more an exhibitor-to-exhibitor show as it is exhibitor-to-attendee show.  I’m not criticizing, simply noting that it’s different from most events of this type.  In some ways it might be a new model for trade shows, because the old model is not working any more.


US-Poland Bio Business Forum

Wednesday 12 May, 2010

The Polish American Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the Lifescience Cluster in Krakow & Depaul University put on the US-Poland Bio Business Forum, which provided a good update on what’s going on in biotechnology in Poland.

  • Zbigniew Kubacki, Minister Counselor Head of Trade & Investment section @ the Embassy of Poland in Washington, D.C. gave a summary of Poland’s general trade & investment opportunities:  Kubacki_Poland Presentation 30042010
  • Pawel Blachno, Pres./CEO of the Jagiellonian Centre of Innovation made a presentation on how their center is growing in leaps & bounds JCIen_FORUM
  • Kazimierz Murzyn, Managing Director of LifeScience Cluster, Krakow presented the strengths of his organization Klaster LifeScience Krakow – 5 maja 2010

Tomasz Mroczkowski, Prof. of International Business @ the Kogod School of Business @ American University in Washington, D.C. talked about options for collaboration between US & Polish biotech companies.  He didn’t make a presentation, so here’s what he said:

2000 marked the transition to an innovation/R&D/knowledge-based economy.  Emerging markets are growing twice as fast as G8 countries.  In terms of growth, Russia, Turkey, Poland, & others will rise to #2 behind China by 2020.  Pharma will double by 2020.  Astra Zeneca has outsourced all of its production to Asia.  Glaxo Smith Klein has invested heavily in Posnan, Poland.  Outsourcing of discovery & clinical trials is a form of R&D outsourcing that cuts costs, speeds development, & allows companies to enter new markets.  McKinsey consultants estimate that 10-15% is being outsourced now, but that will grow to $20B or 50% in the future.  Companies gain access to patients in clinical trials in Poland.  Poland has experience in biologics manufacturing & success in biosimilars.  Poland boasts 20 startups, but require changes in financing.  There are emerging bioclusters in Krakow, Wroclaw, Lodz, Gdansk, & Warsaw.  There are unexploited R&D collaboration opportunities in basic research with the US National Institute for Health.

Rick Walawender of Miller Canfield noted that Polish companies still have difficulties getting access to financing, but that the American approach, (National Venture Capital Assn documents), are very 1-sided & based on common law.  Poland uses a civil law & court system, so it’s somewhat incompatible.


Success stories from Poland are:  A UK company conducted trials for vascular diseases in Krakow; & a professor from Poznan, who had not secured patent rights, licensed his medical instruments to Baxter; 2 Polish biotech companies have gone public, including 1 tissue engineering company.

There are many angel investor organizations in Poland, but few specialize in biotech because many invest more in information technologies to earn quicker ROI’s.  Some investment restrictions can be circumvented by bringing in private investors as long as the firm is organized in Poland.

I requested presentations from Dr. Tadeusz Pietrucha of BioTech Consulting & Prof. Jozef Dulak of Jagiellonian University, but haven’t received them yet.


ambassador to czech republik on central europe

Wednesday 17 June, 2009

The World Trade Center Illinois hosted a breakfast reception featuring the recently returned US Ambassador to the Czech Republik Richard Graber of Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren in Milwaukee who talked about Building your Business and Relationships Across Borders.   This event was co-sponsored by CzechInvest & CzechTrade.  He noted, along with the US being the 4th largest investor in the Czech Republik, these opportunities:

  • Although central Europe is no longer the cheapest in the region, skilled labor still costs 1/3-1/2 of what it does in western Europe.
  • While Romania focuses on manufacturing & assembly, Poland & the Czech Republik are moving into high technology services.
  • American chambers of commerce have lobbied to change regulations, labor codes, & bankruptcy laws so that what formerly took months now takes days.
  • Although there is still not 1 voice, there is a need for alternative sources of energy supply in Europe because Russia’s transgressions have cut-off Europe from its oil & gas from time-to-time.
  • Health care is being reformed in central Europe as well because governments can’t afford to pay 100% of all costs for all people.  Czechs visited a doctor 16 times/year on average, which takes it s toll on the economy.  Despite an uproar, you’re seeing the beginnings of a co-payment system, which already cost some incumbents an election.
  • Central European capitals are great places to live & offer great locations to serve all of Europe, which combined with the US is 40% of world trade & accounts for 55% of world economic output.
  • Much of central Europe, except Poland, has joined the visa-waiver program, which makes travel much easier now

Problems remain with corruption, lack of transparency, intellectual property protection, & slow judicial processes.

His suggestions:

  • find local partners who know the lay of the land
  • take advantage of embassies & chambers of commerce
  • take particular advantage of American chambers of commerce


  • upon returning in January from 2 1/2 years in Prague , he didn’t realize how bad the economic crisis is here.  In central Europe, it’s not catastrophic & the banking crisis is less severe.  The crisis varies on a country by country basis, i.e. Hungary is in worse shape than the Czech Republik.
  • a new generation has grown up in central Europe that has never known communism, so exchange programs, Fulbright scholarships, the International Visitors Centers are now even more valuable.
  • there is lots of eternal debate in central Europe on how big a role the European Parliament should play in each country.  Countries won’t lose their identities, although the debate will continue forever.

My take-having spent 7 months in Poland, I’m a somewhat unabashed advocate for central Europe.  Rolling up the EU helps these countries immeasurably, & will ensure their mutual success in the years to come.  The biggest threat is the growing divisions with neighbors to the east & south.  As long as those can be resolved, prosperity should ensue for a long long time.


Americans in Mexico-shoe on the other foot?

Wednesday 22 April, 2009

This article by Oscar Avila in the Chicago Tribune  Mexican immigrants: U.S.-born students struggle after returning to school in homeland highlights a lot of cultural differences with our neighbor to the south which I think shed some light on how we might look @ things if the situation were reversed.  Suffering from culture shock when moving to a new country.  Language difficulties, “feeling stupid,” & becoming at-risk students when placed in a new classroom.  Mexicans when they come to America or Americans in Mexico?  Apparently it’s very similar in both directions.

Education is a deeply culturally-biased institution.  Classrooms & the teacher/student dynamic are different everywhere you go. My impression is Mexican classrooms are much more authoritarian & not as democratic as ours in the US.  I attended high school in 1 of the best school districts in the state of Michigan, went to 1 of the best US public universities, & earned a Master’s degree from the best school in global business.  I know how the best educational institutions work.  I taught @ a very urban school of business @ a university on the south side of Chicago.  I also taught for a semester @ a private business academy in a small town in southwestern Poland.  I’ve experienced how resource-constrained schools operate too.

I have tons of respect for the students I taught on the south side because they had many more issues to deal with than I did.  Many were single parents working full time jobs.  I can’t imagine going to school full-time with those responsibilities.

The Poles were inveterate cheaters.  I tried to do my best to thwart them, but they beat me.  I organized the room for my final exam in a U-shape so that I could see them, but they had their backs to me.  The problem was there was a constant whisper throughout the whole exam, so my choice became either fail everyone or no one.  I couldn’t justify failing everyone.

I’m surprised American children of Mexican parents would attend school briefly in Mexico around Christmas before returning to the US.  Just like business, integration is key, & you can’t integrate by drifting in & out of schools.  I’ve been talking with a lot of American businesspeople for whom education is a key component to their global success.  By not paying attention to the cultural differences in education, they could be missing some great opportunities.