The Slovenia Times




(by Dusan Bencik, CEO, Terme 3000) Despite being one of the lesser known regions of Slovenia, Pomurje has an interesting location that borders three foreign countries. One of the obstacles to development that this region has faced is that it was declared an exclusive agricultural region. There was no interest in developing other economic sectors and because of the protection of rural land other development was made practically impossible. To be profitable in the future, agriculture methods must change from the traditional crop rotation to a focus on the production of crops and products with higher added value. The second most important economic sector in the region is the food and beverage industry. This industry has lately managed to implement some restructuring, and it now shows positive trends. Tourism also plays an important economic role in the region and is one of the areas of business that has the best chance of improving the region's development, and it has acknowledged the challenges of globalization. The tourism sector provides a good example of how with relatively good organization investment, procurement, purchases and employment can all be realised generating positive synergies for future growth. "Panonske Terme" is a good example since it is now a brand that includes five tourist centres and two small city hotels. As a successful trademark it shows how it is possible to market several of the characteristics of the region and it is already recognized on the European market for its health products as well as a well-established spa. The strategic goal of Terme 3000 Moravske Toplice is to build a capacity of 5000 beds and to achieve an annual revenue of 40 million Euros; and to do this with 1,000 employees. Do or don't we have the knowledge? (by Branko Drvaric, CEO, Kema) There is nothing easy about the current situation in the Pomurje region. Before we even finished the first economic transition, the second one, caused by entering the EU, has come along bringing many difficulties especially for the manufacturing industry. Economic hardship among the people leads many to incorrectly believe that there is no need for something new or different, it also causes people to be satisfied with less, limiting their innovativeness. On the other side we have opportunities which we unfortunately are unable to take advantage of. These are linked to the diligence of our people, our landscape and its preservation. The land could give us much more, if we were didn't only use it to simply grow wheat and corn, and to be stockbreeders. Instead we should find new, specialised programs for agriculture and offer Europe things that it wants to buy, such as bio foods and special farm products, as well as specialising in agrotourism. Tourist experts should market the whole region, not just a few tourist areas. However, everything is connected with a proper education; which must be oriented towards the marketing of our well established and recognised advantages. Optimism is rising because of an imminent dismissal of employment blockades in neighbouring countries. After 40 years the state will no longer shoulder the burden of dealing with underdeveloped regions anymore, but this decision could lead to the loss of many jobs, the alienation of the people and many other negative consequences. So what can we do? Money has always been a priority and this time it will be no different. We surely have no shortage of opinions and perspectives? Some we will have to assess first and only then start to build upon them, others will come all of a sudden and will solve the problems of the region and the country. Let's be optimistic and hope that these new ideas will come in the not too distant future. As far as our company, Kema, is concerned we wish to act positively towards our environment, now and in the future, too. Unfortunately we are a manufacturing company, so we cannot employ a large workforce. Because of new technologies there is less and less need for new employees. In actual fact we have more workers than we need and there are also some educational discrepancies in the current employee structure. Kema intends to open a significant number of new branches in all neighbouring countries and beyond, so that we will be able to employ highly-educated people who will help in the development of new products and in our marketing department. Mura on a mission (by Darja Odar, member of the Executive Board, Mura) The Mura Company has shaped the economic landscape of the region along the Mura River in its 80 years of existence and development. It has played an important role in all sectors of the development of the region, and in the past Mura also had a policy of creating employment opportunities for young people from the Pomurje region. Today we are building on past traditions and knowledge. Given current development trends and market requirements we know how to make quality garments and to build a recognisable fashion brand. Our aim is to become a leading expert in complex fashion engineering, designing for some of the most demanding business partners and for buyers in Central and Northeastern Europe. Given the activities of the Mura Group we are confident that we will accomplish this mission with innovative technology, by satisfying demand for exclusivity and by emphasising individuality in clothing. Mura will gradually change from production to a fashion company, capable of organising the production and logistics of respectable European brands. Alongside these activities Mura will exploit its own competitive advantages to further develop its own brand in Central, Southeast, and later also West European markets. To make this happen Mura must further restructure the company, which 10 years from now will be much smaller in terms of its workforce but with a significantly changed work structure and with greater efficiency and productivity. Nevertheless, even after such changes Mura will continue to be an important feature of the economic landscape of the Mura River. Anton Bensa, CEO Artex, Lendava There are more problems concentrated in Pomurje than you can find in almost any other region in Europe. The key problems for Pomurje include: a lack of regional consensus, fragmentation, and an inability to link outside the framework of funds. From an economic viewpoint, the essential problem of the region is low added value. Despite the fact Pomurje is constantly described as the least developed Slovenian region, there is no adequate systematic State measure of this. It is true that it is us, the people of Pomurje, who can and should do many things ourselves, but it would help to create at least some basic and comparative conditions, motivate people, show them the way and the end goals. There is no need to re-educate people but to redirect them. In my opinion the exaggerated promotion of certain sectors does not make much sense, because a 'homogenous' economic structure will be unstable in the long term. A heterogeneous structure of both economic sectors and industry size makes the best recipe for the long-term dynamism and ability of the economy to adapt. In today's world the concepts of long-term stability and safety in the economy are obsolete. We need a different self-image (mag. Anton BALAZEK, the Mayor of Lendava Municipality) The Pomurje region ranks among the least developed Slovenian regions despite its potential and favourable geographic position. The reasons can be found in unsuitable transport connections, an unfavourable economic structure and relatively low educational opportunities in the wider regional area. The transport and educational weaknesses can be blamed on the State, while the lack of entrepreneurial initiative can be imputed to ourselves. Modern transport improvements would encourage entrepreneurial investment and enhance the mobility of the population. Investment incentives should largely replace social transfers and increase employment options. Development could be encouraged with greater educational options such as high school and university programmes because of their positive impact on human resource development - that is on knowledge in the region. Last but not least - we should change ourselves too. We need a different self-image, more intention to change, more cooperation, and more trust in our own abilities. Improving the starting-point (by Joze Strakl, CEO, Tondach) The prospects for the Pomurje region are not very good - regardless of how you look at it. Our starting-point is bad, the consequence of lagging behind for years, of a brain drain, an unsuitable development policy and a lot of our own mistakes as well as the mistakes of all previous governments. So - how can we improve the current situation? There are some companies in Pomurje that are the leaders in their industrial sectors both in Slovenia and abroad. This shows that we are capable of good things and that in these companies there is no grave concern about future development. However, they will be unable to make radical moves alone. So that's why we have to attract something other than merchant capital and state support. I think that we can achieve the strongest development breakthrough with entrepreneurship, oriented into knowledge-intensive new technologies that largely accept a modern, globalised free market conception of the economy, where you are totally dependant on yourself and your inventiveness. So we have to set high goals and motivate all employees, constantly be alert about new technologies and adjust to change. First of all though, we have to realise that progress is possible only with the harmonisation of the activities of all the region's institutions and local government.


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