Darko Bulatović, Mayor of the City of Niš

Niš – The City of the Future

The City of Niš is listed among the most promising cities, on the basis of evident growth in foreign investments and the high-quality support provided by the City to local economic development, while as a nursery of technological and innovative processes Niš represents one of the pillars of the digitalisation of the Serbian economy

Darko Bulatović, Mayor of the City of Niš

Of the 175 investors who’ve come to our city, 46 investments with a total value of 362.5 million euros have been implemented successfully, while another 19 investments – worth 323 million euros – are currently in the implementation phase, and we are certain that there will be more, reveals Niš Mayor Darko Bulatović.

Today, after Belgrade and Novi Sad, the City of Electronics is also receiving its own science and technology park. How is construction progressing and what will this complex mean for Southern Serbia and the country as a whole?

– As a way of supporting local economic development, the City of Niš brought together all the most important stakeholders to realise the project Science and Technology Park Niš, that represents the next step towards realising the vision to become again regional centre recognised as the City of Advanced Technologies.

The project aims to provide infrastructure, services and specific equipment to help innovative companies in the high technology market, not only in Niš but throughout this part of Serbia.

The initiator of this project, which is worth more than 15 million euros, is the City of Niš, while it is being implemented in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development and the Office of the Minister for innovation and technological development. We expect it to be completed during 2020, and the City of Niš is dedicated to creating proper innovation and start-up ecosystem which will boost the Science technology park development.

We owe a great debt of gratitude to the Government of the Republic of Serbia, which recognised the city’s potential and enabled financing with the support from the European Investment Bank.

The first phase of this project was the establishment of the Start-up Centre Niš at the Faculty of Electronic Engineering, which has been fully realised and serves as the main Start-up and innovative entrepreneurship pillar in the region. The second phase is the construction of the Multipurpose laboratory lamella, as a part of Faculty of electronic engineering. This is about the creation of open space for the realisation of projects of students, teachers and businesses, as well as for supporting student and teacher entrepreneurship. This project is worth more than 5 million euros and it is expected to be completed in 2020.

The City of Niš is investing great efforts to foster economic development. What is encompassed in those efforts?

– During the previous period, the City of Niš implemented measures to improve the business environment, for both domestic and foreign companies, and to cause a significant shift in the economic progress of the region.

Testifying to how successful we’ve been are several facts and figures. Unemployment figures have fallen from 33.242 in June 2015 to 24.000 at the end of 2018. During the same period, the number of active companies grows from 2.995 to 3.718, while the number of active entrepreneurs grows from 7.614 to 9.513. In the same period, we had a significant increase in tourist inflow, since a number of arrivals growth from 85.048 in 2015. to 122.839 in 2018. And numbers of nights grow in the same period from 160.947 to 211.914.

One of the major successes is the growth of Nis airport number of passengers, which grow to 350.000 in 2018. and number destinations which are directly connected to Nis which will be more than 20 starting from summer 2019.

Of the 175 investors who’ve come to our city, 46 investments with a total value of 362.5 million euros have been implemented successfully. The largest among them are Philip Morris, Yura Corporation, Shinwon, Leoni, Johnson electric, Aster textile, Zumtobel and IMI, while another 19 investments, worth 323 million euros, are currently in the implementation phase.

In the City of Nis, the implementation of every investment is monitored by the City of Niš, from initial contact to the opening of a factory. This kind of work has yielded visible and measurable results

With the support of the State, infrastructure projects worth more than 500 million euros are being implemented in and around the city, such as highways linking to Macedonia, Bulgaria and Albania, a railway bypass around Niš, a wastewater treatment facility, Clinical centre. These projects are of huge importance not only to the economy of the Niš but to the whole of Serbia.

The City of Niš also recognises the importance of local SMEs and we provided grants to support local enterprises, increased amounts significantly since 2017. These are nonrefundable grants intended to provide direct support to the economy of Niš which were almost 1 million euros in 2018.

UK publication The Financial Times ranked your city on the list of European cities of the future for 2018/2019. What were the criteria that you satisfied to qualify for this significant recognition?

– We qualified for this recognition on the basis of our financial, economic and business potential. Behind this prestigious acknowledgement stands the continuous work of the Office for Local Economic Development and Projects and local self-government institutions, as well as significant support from the national government.

The City of Niš, thus, is officially ranked seventh among the small European cities of the future for 2018/2019, while – as a region – Niš is ranked third among small European regions in the category of attracting foreign direct investment. The jury also took into account the size of cities and regions, while there were many criteria covering all spheres of economic potential.

OFFICE FOR LOCAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND PROJECTS – AN EXAMPLE OF GOOD PRACTISE

Office for Local Economic Development and Projects was established in February 2009. as a part of the Mayor’s Office. Its formation was supported by USAID’s MEGA and LEDIB programme, and since 2017 this Office started operating as an independent body of the City, covering all aspects of local economic development with 35 employees. The Office for Local Economic Development and Projects works on measures for encouraging the competitiveness of the local self-government including investments promotion and support to investment implementation, improving the business environment as well as providing support to the local business community. The office is managing strategic planning processes for the development of the City, as well as preparing and implementing all development and infrastructure projects with external financing.

The Office for Local Economic Development and Projects has worked also on implementation and manage various infrastructure projects. The most important of these at present are the construction of a wastewater treatment plant, which will be financed with grants worth 43 million euros from the EU, development of the Science and Technology Park, infrastructure development projects co-financed with various ministries. In the domain of culture, projects cover the regulating of the Fortress, Summer Stage, Medijana Archaeological Park, as well as renovating the facades of public buildings in Niš, while sport also hasn’t been forgotten. Reconstruction of the park in Niška Banja will represent the Office’s contribution to the development of tourism. Work is also being carried out on the preparation of strategies, studies and project design/technical documentation for capital projects in the city, such as the Logistics and Development Zone at the Airport, the Congress-Fair Expo Centre, the Multifunctional Cultural Facility, the National Museum etc. The Office for Local Economic Development and Projects has become an example of good practise that’s recognised at the national and international levels, while all the results achieved to date send a clear message that Niš is a city that cares about its future and is on the right track to becoming the economic hub of this part of region.