The Slovenia Times

FDI and the Circular Economy, the Main Drivers of Growth in the City of Maribor



SHS Aviation claimed that the Edvard Rusijan Airport in Maribor would have eleven regular routes by the end of this year, and one of the routes would be to China. How is the plan progressing?

The International Investment Group, SHS Aviation, purchased Aerodrom Maribor and with that obtained a 15 year concession to manage the airport and have announced that they will commence flight operations this year. The initial plan was made with knowledge of Slovenian legislation although, unfortunately, it takes more time in Slovenia to be granted all the licenses necessary to create the conditions to fulfil their investment plan. VLM Airlines d.d., a subsidiary of SHS Aviation, received their Airport Operators Certificate (AOC) in May, not April as initially planned. Fortunately, SHS Aviation is a very active company and seeks other solutions and so recently purchased Thomas Cook Airlines in Belgium which has 40 employees and an AOC for the Airbus 320. With this new airline company, SHS now has two A320 Aircraft with AOC licences which will certainly also be of benefit for Maribor Airport. I believe that in the second half of this year, SHS will start with flights inside Europe and once the infrastructure at Maribor airport is developed, I think that they will start continental flights with China.

For a long time one the biggest projects in Maribor has been the Pohorska Livada Hotel and Ski Resort which is waiting for an estimated EUR 30m investment. Do you have any additional plans as it seems there is a lack of money among domestic investors and little interest from foreign investors?

The Pohorska Livada project is more than 10 years old and the main challenge has been that the operations at the Pohorje Ski Resort have not run smoothly, and this project is closely connected to the hill at Pohorje. Last year everything changed, we now have a new long-term concession holder of Pohorje Ski Resort - Marprom. Last winter there was already some improvement; Pohorje is not only the biggest ski resort in Slovenia but also became the best ski resort and consequently, I believe that this investment project will soon be attractive again.

We want to manage Pohorje in the spirit of public interest. The strategy is to develop year-round tourism, the harmonious development of the entire area of Pohorje in close cooperation with all the stakeholders. The vision of the City of Maribor is to develop Pohorje within the concept of sustainable development and therefore introduce new programs that are in tune with nature (glamping, eco camping, biking, etc.), with a focus on protection and preservation of nature and jobs.

The objective of CMM is to reduce cars in the city centre by 15% by 2020, and to close the city's old town (e.g. Lent) to traffic. What measures have already been implemented and are they in line with sustainable mobility?

As part of the implementation of sustainable mobility, the integrated transport strategy leads to a 15% slowdown of traffic in the city centre by 2020, CMM has an architectural solution, known as the "Drava River embankment" and chosen through an international competition, which provides for the closure of Lent. According to the measures already taken, we plan to implement this solution in the short term.
In the integrated transport strategy of CMM, urban public transport, cyclists and pedestrians take precedence over cars. In terms of sustainable mobility, we recently expanded the pedestrian zones (Trg Leona Štuklja, Rotovški market, Židovski trg), purchased 21 new buses for urban transport with the EURO 6 ecological standard (in 2014 the average age of public transport buses was 12 years which has now been halved to 6.6 years), and we will rearrange parking in the city centre, extend paid parking zones on the right bank of the Drava, progressively extend paid parking outside the existing zones and expand the green areas in the city centre.

There is a general trend toward digitisation of processes and services. Is CMM following this trend and where do you see the greatest demand and potential of digitisation?

In the context of the European project, UPSIDE, CMM established a website and mobile application "Improve Maribor" that, in one place, enables monitoring and submission of initiatives and questions to CMM, its offices, institutions and public enterprises. Residents and visitors to the city are offered the opportunity to actively participate in the improvement of the city in all areas of environmental regulation - of the transport, education, social welfare, culture, sport and other important areas. Suggestions or questions that require investment and planning funds from the budget are systematically addressed and included in the plans of each of the competent institutions within CMM, all with the aim of improving living standards and the quality of life in the city and broader region. Based on the reaction of citizens and the number of submitted initiatives, we believe that the citizens have responded very well to this application.

CMM is among the leading municipalities for developing the concept of the circular economy. You have connected public companies and you are about to build a sorting plant for separate waste collection. Why the decision for a circular economy and what are the benefits for Maribor's citizens?

The concept of the circular economy, in which Slovenians has had a significant role thanks to our European Commissioner, is the answer to a different approach to social reproduction. This approach recognises the scarcity of natural resources and therefore products and materials that are developed should return to production chain. Thus, the extraction of raw materials decreases and natural resources entering the production cycle are used for longer, preserving the environment. The Municipality has implemented a strategic project, WCYCLE, which includes public utility companies, Energetika, Snaga, Nigrad, Vodovod Marprom. Together with the business sector, we identified 18 joint projects which will be realised collaboratively in the coming years, we identified degraded areas to implement planned projects and thus contribute to the revitalisation of these areas.

From the synergies of implementation, CMM will ensure optimal utilisation of all material resources, shorten physical channels, create new products and thus generate new sustainable green jobs. I am pleased that the first shaft has been placed for the construction of the most technologically advanced plant for the processing and sorting of mixed municipal waste in the European Union, which is also the most advanced in the processing industry and the sorting of mixed municipal waste in Slovenia. In this way, we are starting to implement the concept of the circular economy in Maribor, importantly we are a leader and not a follower of the concept. We are aware of the challenges associated with being a pioneer and therefore we want this to be perceived as a positive pilot project, which in future years will also provide benefits to the other local communities in Slovenia.

How does the Municipality approach the investment of Magna Steyr and the location of its manufacturing plant?

Based on a comparative analysis of spatial possibilities, the Municipality of Maribor prepared a list of locations for Magna which included the chosen location next to Edvard Rusijan Airport Maribor. The position in the municipality Hoče - Slivnica was made possible because, in the early 1960's in the spatial strategy for the southwest of the city, the Municipality of Maribor reserved a large complex for an industrial area known as Maribor - Hoče - Tezno. The airport was therefore built along with many other small industrial facilities. The arrival of Magna is a strategically important project for the development of the local and regional economies. In this way, Maribor has begun the construction of large industrial enterprises, which are lacking in the structure of local industries, but are necessary for developing SMEs and service activities. Maribor and its surroundings have industry knowledge, tradition, experience, institutions and research. This is an excellent opportunity for the University of Maribor, which was formed from the industry to meet its needs. We want that young people seek opportunities at home and not go to Austria for work. We also look forward to increased competition among the employers, as this will further affect the growth of wages in the region which is significantly below the average. The project can also encourage immigration in our region and hence the rise in prices in the housing market and its recovery.


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