CEO R. Krivonis – “We represent Panevėžys FEZ as center of car components, electronics and metal industries”

What news about the Panevėžys FEZ could you announce to the public? What are the major projects for 2019? 

In terms of investors:

There is an increased interest shown by German companies. We have a number of visits scheduled for this year. Hence, the focus this year is on more robust engagement with German industrial companies and business associations to introduce Panevėžys as the centre for car components, electronics and the metal industry. In addition, we are planning to keep the focus on the Scandinavian market, which is in close proximity to Panevėžys. Indeed, Panevėžys may be called the capital of Norwegian investments with 16 Norwegian-capital companies operating in it and the new state-of-the-art furniture manufacturing and distribution centre IMG Lithuania, which opened just yesterday (on 7 May) inside the Panevėžys FEZ.

Furthermore, our smallest investor, which has been operating in the FEZ for a little over than a year, is already planning to double its development and is entering new markets.

Further infrastructure development:

“Convenient direct access to the international Via Baltica highway is one of the key infrastructure projects for 2019 that will help the FEZ support and operating transport move more efficiently. Improved logistics in terms of convenience will facilitate the development of the logistics and warehousing services in the economic zone”, says the Director of the Panevėžys FEZ.

It is planned to complete the transport infrastructure unit connecting the Panevėžys FEZ and the key Via Baltica highway of the Baltics this year. The roundabout was already built in 2018. It connected the Panevėžys FEZ with the Via Baltica highway following the investments totalling EUR 3.5 million. Another EUR 2.5 million will be invested in the PLEZ over the next few years building an exit from the main Janonis Street of the Panevėžys industrial district leading directly to the already built roundabout to the Via Baltica highway.

“We are concerned that the PLEZ infrastructure is convenient and top quality as it helps us diversify our investment portfolio and become appealing not only to manufacturing, but also logistics or distribution centres, such as owned by the largest investors in the Panevėžys FEZ (Devold and the IMG Group), which supply products to not only European, but also to global markets from Panevėžys”, says Mr Krivonis.

Moreover, in the meantime, the FEZ operator has prepared, at its own expense, a technical design for the power distribution unit capacity to be increased up to 10 MW. The investments in the construction of this unit will account for EUR 1 million. This particular investment is designed to meet the future needs of investors as fully complete infrastructure at the Panevėžys Free Economic Zone will increase investor interest, and, most importantly, will help maintain the periods of time required for setting up businesses in the Panevėžys FEZ short.

What are the strengths of the Panevėžys FEZ that help compete with other Lithuanian free economic zones which have access to sea or air ports? Why do investors choose the FEZ that you manage over others? 

Our main competitive advantages are the following:

  1. Strategic location: 3 international airports (Kaunas, Vilnius and Riga) are 1.5 hour drive from Panevėžys. In addition, Panevėžys has excellent transport connections and strategic location (in the middle) between two Baltic capitals, Vilnius and Riga.
  2. Strong supply chain of the Panevėžys region to all major industries (in the electronics, metal and furniture industries, which are part of Panevėžys regional historical excellence) helps Panevėžys offer investors a premium quality and internationally recognised supply chain. One of the examples illustrating this would be the furniture manufacturing supply chain. Panevėžys has the supply chain of all required components ranging from standard or moulded foam and textiles to metal and wood frames and plastic components on offer within a 50-kilometre radius of town. Therefore, in this regard we are a perfect region for furniture manufacturing.

We also have strong supply chains to be offered to car component, electronics, plastics and other industries.

  1. Fully developed infrastructure. For more information about the direct roundabout connecting the FEZ with the European Via Baltica (E67) highway and the technical design for the power distribution unit capacity to be expanded (up to 10MW) as prepared by the FEZ operator please see the answers above.

Will the new post as the President of the LAFEZ help you attract new investment to the Panevėžys FEZ, in your opinion?

I believe that as an association we must work together and compete as a country in a highly competitive market of investments to be attracted. The world has thousands of free economic zones and industrial parks, which are in direct competition with us for foreign direct investment. Well-developed infrastructure alone will not make us competitive. We must also address soft issues such as talent attraction and retention from other EU and third countries, improving business environment, easing the procedures of land planning and construction permit issuance along with other matters that would help us compete with our main competitor countries in the Central and Eastern Europe, i.e. Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. 

Acting alone we may achieve short-term results, but working together and  in synergy we can help create a more competitive Lithuania and higher value added as well as help attract new, ambitious, large projects to all free economic zones and regions in the long run.

How much free space is available now? 

At present, 17.5 ha are occupied or booked with another 17.5 ha still available.

Do you maintain cooperation ties with investors DEVOLD, SPEKTRUS EU and IMG LITHUANIA following their set up in the Panevėžys FEZ? To what extent is the assistance and support from the Panevėžys FEZ required by the companies that have already been in operation for a few years? 

Without doubt, our FEZ offers post-investment support to all investors. We find ourselves assisting the investors in an array of matters. To illustrate, 

  1. We assisted the Devold company in training (and the model continues to be in place) the required professionals (seamsters/operators) by introducing the Panevėžys Labour Market Training Centre to the investor. The centre adapted the training programme to the investor and held an apprenticeship along with the company, resulting in more than 20 seamsters/operators already trained and working for the Devold company;
  2. In addition, we have to deal with soft issues too, such as the ambition of one of the Norwegian managers of our investor to learn Lithuanian. We helped find him a teacher and gather a small group of foreigners in Panevėžys to continue to learn Lithuanian.
  3. Moreover, if there any challenges in regards to other procedures or issues, we are always here to help and offer support when dealing with the authorities to make our investors happy and let them focus on their work.
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