21st & 22nd of May
Maribor, Slovenia
Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Mayor of Maribor on the importance of startups and the award for a micro European city of the future!

The Municipality of Maribor is one of the main supporters of the PODIM Conference for the third year in a row. We talked to the mayor, dr. Andrej Fištravec, about the most important activities and results in the field of encouraging the economic, business and startup development of Maribor and the region. Besides all investment achievements – including projects such as Magna, Aerodrom Maribor, Vila Mari, RTS24, Serioplast, Arosa Mobilia and Brobo Evropa – the mayor is emphasizing the fact that the initial global focus of startup companies is instilling new economic confidence in the city and broader.
 
Over the past couple of years, what were the most important activities of the Municipality of Maribor in the field of economic, business and startup development of Maribor?

Between last year’s and this year’s PODIM, the Municipality of Maribor has achieved quite a few important milestones. The biggest investments include Aerodrom Maribor, Vila Mari, RTS24, Serioplast, Arosa Mobilia, where we helped with restructuring, and Brobo Evropa. There is also TAM Europe, developing an electric bus, which we think will be a turning point in the company’s development. As far as the Magna investment is concerned, we helped at the beginning by finding the most optimal location. Magna is now facing new challenges of employments and long-term successful operations, which makes us very happy, especially because it turns out that Magna, by obtaining new car models, where some are even mentioning Tesla, could potentially ensure more jobs for residents of the broader region. I am most happy about the fact that in October 2008, Maribor-based companies generated 68,000 jobs, by March 2013 the number of jobs in Maribor has fallen by more than 13,000. Since then, there have been 4,700 new jobs, the declining trend has stopped, and we are noting a trend of increase and job growth.
 
What is the news connected to the Maribor airport, which obtained a new owner with help of the Municipality of Maribor?

In February this year, the Maribor airport has seen a return of scheduled passenger transport and a line to Antwerp, Belgium, with a stopover in Munich. The entrance of a new investor enabled the airport to once again become an important window into the world, not only for Slovenia but also for the broader region. Soon, the many international guests who come to the PODIM Conference each year might be able to fly directly to Maribor or from Maribor back to their destination. The plans of the new investors are big. The owners are expecting the preparation of a National Spatial Plan (NSP), which is a step towards implementing the development goals of the airport, because the NSP will enable the lengthening of the runway and expanding the necessary airport infrastructure for establishing flight connections from Maribor. This is in line with the business strategy of the owners, because the lengthening of the runway was anticipated in their business plan as the starting point for establishing freight and passenger traffic. It’s an incredibly important strategic move that will influence the development of the Maribor airport as well as the development of the city of Maribor, surrounding cities and the region.
 
Are stories such as Magna and the Maribor airport the reason why Maribor recently got the award for the micro town most likely to attract FDI?

Definitely (laugh, a. n.). These are lists of the fastest developing and most perspective cities, regions in Europe. It is a great pleasure that Maribor and the Podravje region are on the top ten list in the category of attracting foreign investors. We have been extensively working on this in the Podravje region and Maribor over the past three years, and the received titles are proof that our strategy is making us recognizable. The award was given to Maribor by the world-renowned newspaper Financial Times, because we ranked seventh on the list of micro European towns that are friendly to investors. The same award in the category of regions was given to the Podravje region and the award was accepted by Božidar Pučnik, head of Investment Promotion Department at Invest in Podravje from the Maribor Development Agency. The award ceremony took place in Cannes, France, in parallel to the start of the biggest investment and real-estate fair MIPIM. This only confirms the efforts and focus of Maribor and the Podravje region, and their investment platforms Invest in Maribor and Invest in Podravje, which are developing a strategy for attracting investors on a local level. Of course, this is also an important message for all potential investors, because actions confirm our words.
 
One of your crowning programmes for the development of entrepreneurship is also Start:up Maribor. What do you think are the key results of this year’s activities within this programme?

I am personally most satisfied that the Start:up Maribor programme has started actively connecting young, innovative startups with big established companies. More exactly with Zavarovalnica Sava, which has given two new initiative for collaboration with startups, while another initiative has come from Nova KBM. The programme has, similarly to previous years, encouraged the launch of a few new startup companies. I’m incredibly happy that Maribor has been recognized as a promising talent pool by other established high-tech companies – for example 3fs, Povio Labs or Dewedoft with its Dream Labs, opening their branches here and strengthening their presence.
 
What is the main reason why the Start:up Maribor programme has earned your support for the past three years?

Just systematic work and regular programme implementation can result in a sufficiently big critical mass of activities that people can put in their calendars, start meeting regularly, talk, exchange opinions and experiences, and finally create something new together. The best proof of this are our promising Maribor startup teams such as U-centrix, SPA match, Coinhab, Moj mojster and others. I mentioned previously that Dewesoft will establish a space and activities that will engage young talents within our university incubator Venture Factory. This way, another new polygon for the development of new technologies and solutions will be created, with a bunch of other synergies that such projects introduce to the Maribor startup community.
 
Is the Municipality of Maribor planning to directly encourage startup entrepreneurship in the following periods and how?

Of course. We will also encourage startup companies in the future – both within our measures for encouraging the economy as well as by trying to bring international economic subjects to the city and they will, for their own economic gain, start looking for collaborations with startups.
 
Why is the Municipality of Maribor supporting the PODIM Conference for the third year in a row and what expectations do you have this year?

We’re supporting PODIM because it has been the biggest such conference in the region for a long time, our focus is on internationalizing the city and city area, the conference has done this years ago. If we wish to develop the city’s economy, we can’t develop it without startups.
 
At this year’s PODIM, we will award you with a certificate of recognition as an active supporter of PODIM and the Maribor startup community. What do you think is the biggest value of successful high-tech startup companies in Maribor and the region?

Their contribution is definitely that in this way, the economic culture of the city is spreading. I can see from my own experience that a lot of economists don’t think globally. Inside the startup scene itself, the main focus and thinking are global. I think that is how new economic confidence in the city and broader are being developed.