There are new developments being discussed for an automotive cluster in the Silesia region of Poland near GM’s Opel’s plant in Gliwice, which lies at the heart of the Katowice Special Economic Zone (KSEZ). It reaffirms the importance of the automotive industry to the region since Opel decided in 1996 to build its plant in Gliwici, which still offers attractive investment terms as well as logistics efficiencies.
According to Wojciech Rusek, marketing specialist for the Katowice Special Economic Zone Company, the zone would not exist if GM had not chosen the area to build its plant there. Vehicle production began in August 1998 when the first Astra Classic rolled off the line and it now makes the Astra, Astra Classic II, Zafira, Astra III Sedan and will be adding the Cascada convertible from 2013.
Before Opel, Gliwice was facing a dark future, with the shutdown of the mines threatening high unemployment. Gliwice then invested a huge amount of money in areas outside the city and offered significant tax benefits for potential companies interested in doing business there, said Rusek, speaking at an event held alongside the eighth World Technopolis Association meeting in Gliwice during September.
Following Opel’s lead, and with significant investment from the city authorities, the KSEZ has flourished and 190 companies and 50,000 employees are now resident there, responsible for 220 projects and a total investment of $6.1m, involving good road and rail access to wider Europe, an expanded and modernised airport, as well as inland waterways. Around 90% of investments in the Katowice SEZ have now been made within the Gliwice subzone. Based on building space leased across the region, the automotive industry accounts for 16% across six industrial parks.
Even as Opel faces declines across Europe, production at the Polish plant is building back towards 2008 levels, while earler this year GM also chose it, together with a British plant, over German factories to build the next generation Astra.
The plant’s supply chain is helped by several tier suppliers being based nearby, while inbound logistics providers include Raben, Jaz and Deltatrans, as well as Gefco (whose role will likely expand once it takes over GM Europe’s logistics management at the start of next year, see p10). Müller Die Lila Logistik is in Gliwice with a 12,000-square metre warehouse that is almost 100% stocked with inventory for the plant, including stamped parts that are shipped from Brazil. Vehicle logistics providers serving the plant include Gefco, Vega, Janpol and Adampol.
According to Andrzej Korpak, plant director at GM Manufacturing Poland, the carmaker wants to see the growth of the region maintained. Confirming that talks on an automotive cluster were underway, he highlighted the advantages of the relationships that Opel has with its providers in the area.
“We want to have a shared experience, establish a cluster and support each other because we have the same regulation, the same country and language,” said Korpak. “It means we can decrease our structural costs by cooperating. We have had a few meetings already on issues such as human resources and energy, tasks that are easy to cooperate on.”
Korpak also said that logistics was an area of cooperation, especially for shared packaging. “We think we can organise groups to work in common and decrease cost,” he said.
Foreign companies setting up business in the KSEZ are drawn by the fact that they are exempt from the 19% corporate income tax that businesses outside of it have to pay. The total amount of the tax relief is up to 40% (for the largest enterprises) of qualified investment costs.
KSEZ itself promotes the economic zone abroad, sells the land provided with fixed utilities and access roads, and issues corporate income tax relief permits for conducting business within the zone.
“Probably the most important thing that we do is help our investors throughout the whole industrial process once they are in the zone,” added Rusek. “It may sound simple but corporate income tax relief is complicated.”
The company offers consultancy on such issues as accountancy procedures and advises companies on how they can prolong the income tax benefit.
The benefit is due to end in 2020 but, according to Rusek, because investment continues to pour into the region, talks began in March on a new incentive focused, once again, on the automotive industry.
Container shipping spot rates on the Asia-Europe trade lane remained high in July and August at around $3,500 following a light increase between March and May this year when carriers withdrew capacity and forced rates up. Container loading on the route rose to $4,000 per FEU, a 110.4% increase in May on the same period in 2011 and the rate has fluctuated above 130% in July and August. Drewry forecasts that container rates would continue to soften toward the end of the year. A drop below $3,000 was recorded in the last weeks of August.
Air freight prices dropped in July following a fall in demand, which was 3.3% lower than it was in the same month last year according to the International Air Transport Association. The IATA said that international air freight had been showing signs of improvement since the end of 2011, but the recent decline in business confidence and a slowdown in world trade growth could now be starting to weaken the market. Asia-Pacific airlines, which have the largest share of the market, have made no advance in the level of traffic since the end of 2011.