by Costin Buradu
Last week marked an important event in the partnership relations that Iasi, “the capital of Moldavia,” wants to have with Western European companies. Over 40 businessmen and entrepreneurs from the IT, agriculture, pharmaceutical industry and metallurgical industry domains, public administration employees and teachers from Iasi went to Vienna in order to convince potential partners to place the region on their map of future investments. The action took place at the second edition of the “Invest in Iasi” Forum in Vienna.The Iasi businessmen’s projects concern the expansion and modernization of the local airport, the setting up of an industrial park with an estimated value of almost EUR 6 M, the use of Romania’s North-East region’s agricultural potential. In Vienna, the representatives of the Iasi business sector pointed out that the region has cheap and young labor force, over 1,000 IT graduates each year and companies such as Amazon, Delphi, Microsoft, Xerox, Continental or E.ON that have already staked on Iasi. The Iasi business community considers that special efforts are needed in order for the region to come out of “isolation.” They refer to the fact that Iasi, one of the largest Romanian cities, does not have a highway that would more easily link Romania’s North-East region with Western Europe.“I continue to feel that Romanian business is not in the “big league” on the European map, and for those in Iasi it is even harder to make a business profitable since they are isolated over the mountains. Transylvania for instance does not have this problem and a highway that would link Iasi to Targu-Mures and implicitly to the rest of Europe would be the only realistic and sustainable solution to take the area out of underdevelopment. Of course, we (the Iasi County Council – editor’s note) took the responsibility to expand and modernize the airport that hadn’t been touched for 24 years but is under our control,” Iasi County Council Chairman Cristian Adomnitei stated.Even the potential Austrian investors that took part in the second edition of the “Invest in Iasi” forum claimed that a highway that would link Iasi and implicitly Moldavia to Western Romania and the rest of Europe would encourage more foreign businessmen to “shake hands” with their counterparts in Iasi. Iasi currently has eight flight destinations, up from a single one when the airport was set up, and 230,000 passengers. “We are a fairly new company but we have international activity, we are already present on the market in China and we would like to enter Eastern Europe. We will soon sign a contract in Moldavia, but we are interested in penetrating this market as much as possible. For me the highway wouldn’t be an impediment, but of course not to have this option is a disadvantage for Iasi’s business,” Stefan Leitzinger, Sales Manager at ONEAQUA GmbH, an Austrian irrigation equipment producer, stated. The opinion was shared by Marco Amminger, an Austrian businessman that set up the Top Transfer consultancy and training company eleven years ago.Most of Iasi’s trade is currently with Italy and the Republic of Moldova, Austria having only a small contribution in the county. Nevertheless, at national level Austria is the second-largest investor in Romania, with a registered capital of over EUR 5.2 bln and almost 6,800 companies in which it is a shareholder, according to Commerce Registry data (July 2014). “You should come to Iasi because we have motivated and highly educated people.”The event in Vienna, organized by the Iasi County Council and the Association for the Economy of Knowledge, in partnership with the Romanian embassy in Austria and the Austrian Chamber of Commerce in Vienna, was the second in a series of conferences meant to promote Iasi County as a destination of foreign investments. The next event will take place in Milan next year.