A SPOT FOR BUSINESS BY GERMAN BORDER
From innovative projects, surprisingly large amounts of office space and proximity to the German and Scandinavian markets, Szczecin is a city with a lot to offer. By Anna Rzhevkina
Location and logistics
Szczecin is a city on the River Oder in northwest Poland, a few kilometers from the border with Germany and about 100 kilometers from the port of Świnoujście, a key transshipment hub in Poland.
The city is situated at an intersection of the region’s transport routes. It forms a transport node in the European corridor, connecting Scandinavia, the Czech Republic and Austria with ports on the Mediterranean Sea. Another trade route that runs through Szczecin connects Russia and Finland with Western Europe.
In a 45-minute drive from the city, there is a Szczecin-Goleniów Airport with regular international flights to Norway and the UK and domestic flights to Warsaw. The distance to the Polish capital is 566 kilometers or about 75 minutes by plane.
In 2019, city authorities allocated PLN 2.5 billion for improvements to the city’s transportation network. Investment plans include work on the Szczecin Metropolitan Rail and the revitalization of one of the main streets, Aleja Wojska Polskiego. New cycling paths and roads are under construction to ease the congested traffic in the city and suburbs.
On top of that, there are projects to deepen and widen the Świnoujście-Szczecin fairway, construct the S10 expressway to Bydgoszcz and build the Szczecin western bypass — a new 51.5-kilometer two-lane expressway.
Szczecin has two special economic zones (SEZs) — the Euro-Park Mielec, operating in Szczecin since 2010 and Kostrzyn-Słubice established in 2013.
The city’s major industries are maritime, renewables, medical technology and business services. Foreign investments in the city come mainly from Germany and Scandinavia, according to Marek Kubik, chairman of the Szczecin Metropolis Development Agency (ARMS), cited by Antal. The city bets on technologies to drive its eco-nomic growth and has various centers, supporting innovative entrepreneurship.
Technopark Pomerania has operated since 2000, providing services, such as business mentorship and consulting for the information and communications technology (ICT) sector. There is 13,000 sqm of office space with conference and meeting venues and a coworking area.
The West Pomerania ICT Cluster aims to foster the development of the local IT sector and to help companies gain know-how. The Cluster is a non-profit organization that collaborates with more than 80 IT companies in the West Pomeranian region.
The Regional Center for Innovation and Technology Transfer, administered by the West Pomeranian University of Technology in Szczecin, is engaged in the commercialization of technologies, and assistance to businesses and academic entrepreneurship.
The Innovation Center at the Maritime University of Szczecin aims to transfer the results of research and R&D projects to business and industry. It cooperates with entrepreneurs, investors and consultancy agencies to address those who want to implement new technologies.
Although Szczecin is one of the major Polish cities with a population of more than 400,000 people, its office market is still at a nascent stage. But in the last three years, it has been growing at a fast pace. The largest cluster of office space is located in the center and in the central-south section of the city.
At the bank of the Oder River, there is the Lastadia Office Center – a block with six floors and a total area of 13,400 sqm with designs that echo the pre-war architecture of Zbożowa Street and its surroundings.
Other popular office spaces are Brama Portowa I and Brama Portowa II on Niepodległości Street and a nine-story office building Oxygen that is reachable from the main train station in 10 minutes by car.
Apart from a few international players, such as Echo Investment and Vastint, Szczecin’s office market is dominated by local investors. The city offers about 200,000 sqm of office space and due to soaring demand, it has the lowest vacancy rates among major regional markets in Poland. At the end of 2021, the vacancy rate in Szczecin was 5.3%, while in Wrocław it was as high as 16.7%, according to the Polish Chamber of Commercial Properties (PINK).
Companies, such as Carlsberg, Ikea, Zalando and Asseco Poland, the largest IT company listed on the Warsaw Stock, chose Szczecin for their business operations.
Warehouse and residential
The dynamic expansion of warehouse space in Szczecin began in 2014 when developer 7R invested in a logistics park there. In 2020, the total supply of modern warehouse space in Szczecin reached 762,000 sqm, placing the region seventh among 11 major warehouse markets in Poland.
In terms of space, Szczecin is comparable to the Tri-City (802,000 sqm) and is larger than Kraków (566,000 sqm).
In the residential market, the average price per sqm increased in March by 2.61% compared to a year ago and reached on average PLN 7,415. This is still more than a third lower compared to Warsaw, where the average price is about PLN 11,630/sqm, according to real estate company SonarHome.
Local employees in demand
The city has been developing as a spot for business services, especially for IT and financial industries, thanks to its proximity to German and Scandinavian markets and educated employees, many of whom speak more than one foreign language.
Many of them are graduates of local universities. The University of Szczecin is the biggest university in West Pomerania with nine faculties and more than 30,000 students. Overall, there are 12 higher education institutions in the city with fields of study, ranging from business and law to engineering and technology.
The availability of HR and administration candidates as well as professionals and managers with analytical skills are Szczecin’s points of strength. Such candidates are in demand for shared service centers focusing on finance, accounting and customer service.
“Access to the office space of high standard, well-qualified employees with knowledge of foreign languages, investments in modern technologies, as well as low labor costs — these are the main advantages of Szczecin,” said Tomasz Klek, ARMS spokesperson.