This is a year when the Office for Local Economic Development and Projects celebrates a decade of its work. It was established in 2009 with the support of USAID’s MEGA program and the Danish LEDIB program, as the 26th office of this kind in Serbia. Although the Niš office was set up later than the other offices in Serbia, it took only a year to record its first significant results. After a period of almost 30 years, new factories began to be built in Niš. Neither the city administration nor the office staff was initially fully prepared to work with the investors. Through the first projects, new experiences were gained, problems were identified, and other institutions in the city were introduced to the reasons for the existence of the newly established OLEDP.
One of the first tasks was to change the approach to the work of the city administration with the investors, as well as to familiarize all of the stakeholders with the importance of investments, investors and new employment for the development of the local community. The newly formed office was a kind of bridge between, rather rigid local administration, the local business community in Niš and the investors.
Objective indicators and figures, after 10 years of work, show that the goal has been fulfilled and the office has justified its existence. The Office for Local Economic Development and Projects has participated in, or has carried out, a number of city projects, most significant for the development of the City of Niš in the last decade.
Thus, the number of unemployed from 37,000 as registered 10 years ago, was reduced to 23. 115 in June 2019, while the number of employees rose to almost 80,000, which is almost 20,000 more than 10 years ago. The number of start-ups increased, as well as the number of active companies, from 7,614 to 9,513.
Out of 175 investors who came to Niš, 46 investments, with a total value of EUR 362.5 million, were successfully implemented. The largest among them were Philip Morris, Yura Corporation, Shinwon, Leoni, Johnson electric, Aster textile, Zumtobel and IMI, while 19 investments, worth € 323 million, are under implementation. The construction of the Science and Technology Park, WWTP in Niš, the construction of a shooting range, the reconstruction of the ramparts of the Niš Fortress, the reconstruction of the Museum building at the Mediana archaeological site are just a few of the projects currently underway and implemented by KLERP.
By recognizing the importance of the SME sector, the City of Niš continuously, through the Office, supports their growth and development through grants awards and other forms of clearly defined support.
Over time, the Administration was reorganized, the single City Administration was formed as a body that deals with all administrative affairs in the city, and KLERP as a development unit and an independent body of the City of Niš, with a different organization, concept and capacities.
Today, 34 highly educated people work in the Office for Local Economic Development and Projects. The working manner with investors stands out in comparison to the common practice in Serbia. Support to investors is provided at all stages of investment realization, from initial contact and elementary information about the city, through visits to potential sites and submission of very specific, different data, depending on the investor’s interest. The professionalism and commitment of the people in charge of investing are reflected in the fact that investors feel good in Niš and believe that they have a reliable partner in the city. Long-term investor confidence is also created by the fact that the employees of the Office represent the interests of investors for the sake of the general interest and that they are ready to be available to them all around the clock and to cope with and solve together with them the problems encountered during project implementation.
The specificity of the team of the Office for Local Economic Development and Projects is that after the realization of the investment, employees continue to stay in contact with newly established members of the local business community. They solve problems encountered during the operation of the factory and show that they can rely both on the Office and the City of Niš. One of the significant successes of the Office is reflected in the fact that the majority of investors who came to Niš have reinvested, ie, expanded their capacities and built another factory in Niš or Serbia.
Development of the city and the work of the Office were recognized by the others: the City of Niš is one of the five cities in Serbia to be selected as the first “Champions of Local Development”, in a competition conducted by NALED, in order to select the best practices of LSGs. In the ranking of financial, economic and business potentials of cities and regions of Europe, Finacial Times fDI magazine has officially ranked the City of Niš as the 7th small European cities of the future 2018/2019. Niš, as a region, was ranked 3rd among small European regions by the same criteria in the category FDI attraction.
The City of Niš was also nominated for the Emerging Europe Award at this year’s European Leaders’ Meeting in London in the category of FDI Attraction Strategies of the Year. Niš, found itself side by side with the cities of Debrecen in Hungary, Galata in Romania, Vilnius and Klaipeda in Lithuania and the cities of Krakow, Lodz, Poznan, Wroclaw and Sosnovik in Poland. In this category, the creativity, effectiveness and success of city department strategies were evaluated, in this case the Office for Local Economic Development and Projects of the City of Niš, in the field of FDI attraction.
The City of Niš had this “YES RELATIONSHIP” from the start, said one of the investors who came to our city from the North of Europe as one of the first investors. This is what the Office is doing and is always a guiding principle in business, making business partners feel safe and confident that challenges will be solved in collaboration with local authorities feeling no fear to invest. The City of Niš, thanks to this “YES TO RELATIONS”, has great potential that lies within the local administration and the Office for Local Economic Development and Projects. For the Office, the greatest satisfaction is that investors who have already invested in Niš are not disappointed; on the contrary, they are happy for choosing our city and for the fact that they can contribute to the development of the local community.