In 2005, this part of Poland was characterized by the lowest GDP in the enlarged European Union (EU-25), which is why it was decided to start from the EU level additional operational program supporting equalization of the backwardness relative to richer regions of the Old Continent. The region, like many other Polish provinces, was particularly affected by the consequences of the economic and political system transformations of the 1990s. Many large plants did not survive the test of time and the new realities of the advent of the free market. From the middle of the preceding decade, the region's macroeconomic situation has been improving, thanks, among others, to EU funds, job growth, and domestic and foreign projects carried out in different places of the region
According to the Central Statistical Office, the Świętokrzyskie province generates approx. 2.5 percent of Polish GDP. Nominally, in the period 2000-2012 it increased more than twice from PLN 19.5 billion in 2010 to almost PLN 39 billion in 2012. Per capita, it is about PLN 30.3 thousand, which is approx. 3/4 of the national average.
According to CSO estimates for 2010-2012, the higher GDP per capita is listed in north - more urbanized part of the Świętokrzyskie province, which includes Kielce (about PLN 32 thousand or 82 per cent of the national average). Slightly worse is the data for far more agricultural, southern subregion extending from Sandomierz to Jędrzejów and Włoszczowa (PLN 26.7 thousand or approx. 2/3 of the national average).
This diversity results from a clear division which can be determined on the economic map of the region. The northern part, together with Kielce, is a typically industrial zone. It is there that the biggest cities in the region are.
Apart from Kielce (population of 200 thousand) there is Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski, Starachowice, Skarżysko Kamienna. The genesis of the industrial character of the area should be sought in the fifteenth century, when, among others, mining and smelting of lead, silver and copper developed in these areas. Suffice to say that until the industrial revolution in the nineteenth century, the area was a major center for the production of iron in Poland. In the 1920s and 1930s, the cities named above experienced the above mentioned dynamic development in the implementation of plans to create the Central Industrial District, among others in the Kielce region. In a sense these plans, but in a completely different form and system-economic reality continued during the Polish People's Republic, when a number of industrial plants arose there, and the population of these cities grew rapidly. A major test for these areas was this period of transition from a socialist economy to a free market one in the late twentieth century. Many plants collapsed, causing a marked increase in unemployment, which remains a source of concern, even now.
The remaining, larger in area part of the region is mostly agricultural. The Sandomierz and Opatów counties are now an important center of orcharding and gardening. Agriculture is a major sector in the Jędrzejów, Pińczów, Kazimierz counties. Unpolluted environment and good soil conditions permit efficient production of healthy, organic food.
According to the methodology of the Central Statistical Office, in September in Świętokrzyskie the unemployment rate was 14.3 percent, and was higher by 2.8 percentage points than the national average. The worst situation persists for years in the northern part of the region. The highest unemployment rate is recorded in the Skarżysko county located on the border with the Mazovian province, and is 25.7 percent. The best situation on the labor market is in the southern counties of Busko (7.2 per cent) and Pińczów (9.8 percent). In the largest city in the region, Kielce, the figure is 10.2 percent.
The labor market in Świętokrzyskie is characterized by remuneration on a level lower than the national average. In September, the average remuneration in enterprises amounted to PLN 3,318.36 gross and was lower by almost PLN 600 than the average wage in Poland
The Świętokrzyskie province area is outside of the current and planned network of motorways. Across the region, however, there are national roads, important from the point of view of transport logistics. The most important of them is road No. 7 connecting northern Poland and Warsaw with southern Poland, including Kraków. In recent years, over a distance of about 50 km from the Skarżysko-Kamienna node to the Kielce-South node it was converted to the double-lane expressway parameters (S-7). At the “Kielce-West” node it intersects with national road 74 linking Łódź province with the Lublin Region and the eastern part of Świętokrzyskie.
Even in this decade the whole section of national road 7 within the province is to be rebuilt to expressway S7 parameters, which would significantly reduce the communication of the region with Warsaw and Kraków and with border crossings to Slovakia.
The northern part of the region is dissected by national road No. 42 running through the important cities of the region: Końskie, Skarżysko-Kamienna and Starachowice. In Rudnik it connects to national road No. 9, which reaches further east to the second largest city of the region - Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski. That road No. 9 is an important connection with Podkarpacie and Mazovia.
Kielce’s communication with east Małopolska is provided by road No. 73, and with Upper Silesia, including Katowice, by the said road No. 7 to Jędrzejów and further road No. 78 leading to the border with the Czech Republic in Chałupki.
In total, the area of Świętokrzyskie is crossed by approx. 730 km of roads managed by the General Directorate for National Roads and Motorways ensuring communication with all neighboring regions, major airports and cities such as Warsaw, Kraków, Katowice, Łódź, Rzeszów and Lublin.
In recent years the quality of provincial roads greatly improved; in many sections they have been completely rebuilt. They provide connections within the region and the neighboring provinces. In recent years, the provincial road No. 786 Kielce-Częstochowa to the border of the region was repaired and a new bridge over the Vistula in Połaniec was built, owing to which the road from Kielce to Rzeszów was shortened by 25 km.
Looking at the region on a larger scale it is worth noting that it is located between two major East-West road transport corridors (Motorways A2 and A4), and east of the north-south corridor (Motorway A1)
The Świętokrzyskie province is crossed by railway lines providing inter-regional and intra-provincial transportation. Their total length is 725 km, of which 270 km are lines of nationwide importance.
The main railways include route No. 8 passing through Kielce, providing connections with Warsaw and Cracow. The capital of the region also has connections to the Upper Silesian conurbations and Częstochowa.
The cities located in the north of the region:- Skarżysko-Kamienna, Starachowice, Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski are linked by route No. 25 (connected by route No. 8 with Kielce). The south of the region is intersected by a broad gauge Metallurgical-Sulfur Line (LH-S) built in the time of people’s Poland, which leads from Hrubieszow (Lublin province) located on the border with Ukraine to “Katowice” Steel Mill (Silesian province). In the region, in Sędziszow (Jędrzejów County) on the line there is a wagon chassis interchange station.
The most important route running through the western periphery of the region is the Central Railway Line (CMK) connecting, among others, Warsaw with Cracow and Upper Silesia. Since 2006, it has a passenger stop Włoszczowa-North, scheduled in the Pendolino high-speed trains timetable. The plans for the coming years is to build a railway junction in Czarnca at the intersection of the Kielce Czestochowa line and CMK permitting connection of Kielce with the high-speed rail network, and shortening the travel time between Kielce and Warsaw to 2.5 hours.
The Świętokrzyskie province does not have a major airport serving passenger and cargo connections. Kielce authorities carry out efforts for the construction of such an airport in the village of Obice on the border between the municipalities of Morawica and Chmielnik. So far, these plans meet with difficulties. Opponents of such a project forward, among other things, an of a short distance from airports such as Warsaw-Okęcie, Kraków-Balice or Pyrzowice.
Air transport, for small aircraft, is handled by a civil airport in Masłów located in the vicinity of Kielce, registered in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), under the International Code of EPKA. It has an asphalt strip (1155 X 30 meters) with reversers, a grass strip (900 X 250 meters), high-intensity approach lights in both directions, as well as threshold and edge lights. There is an international border crossing allowing passport and customs clearance.
In the western part of the region there is also an airfield Krasocin-Lipa (EPKL) for operating small aircraft and light planes.
A broadband network is currently being built in the region. The project is to eliminate the so-called white spots on the telecommunication map of the region, where data exchange is not possible or is available to a very limited extent. Thanks to the project, in many places of the region, the internet speed offered by the final suppliers will increase.
The cost of building the broadband network in the Świętokrzyskie region is expected to exceed PLN 200 million. Of that, EU funds from operational program Development of Eastern Poland amount to almost PLN 156 million. The project includes the construction of more than 1,400 km of fiber network and 143 distribution nodes - points to telecom operators. The network will cover 100 percent offices and institutions, and 90 per cent inhabitants of the region.
Third generation (3G) mobile Internet is available almost in the entire region. Leading mobile operators are currently expanding their infrastructure. The most important cities of the region are already within the range of the fastest standard of wireless data exchange – LTE.
In the region there are a number of local ISPs with good parameters, using mostly wireless technologies.
Leading sectors and companies
The Research and Innovation Strategy adopted by the Świętokrzyskie Regional Assembly includes the particularly promising industries that are likely to become a specialty of the Świętokrzyskie region. They are: resource-efficient construction, metal-casting industry, health and healthcare tourism, and modern agriculture and food processing.
Given the long tradition of an industrial region, it is not surprising to find the metal industry among high opportunity sectors. In addition to history, it is important that the region has technical secondary schools and colleges that educate future professionals in these areas. It is worth mentioning here the Kielce University of Technology having in its portfolio such specializations as Mechanical Engineering, Automation and Robotics or Electric Engineering. The companies operating in the sector in the Świętokrzyskie provinces include Metal Works “Mesko” in business since the 1920s in Skarżysko Kamienna, Celsa Huta Ostrowiec, Mining and Metal Plant in Zębiec or the Starachowice factory MAN Bus.
Manufacturers in this sector can count on a number of potential partners acting, as determined by PAIiIZ, in the “Świętokrzyski Founding-Cooperative Area”.
The building sector of the Świętokrzyskie province focuses on companies known and important to the national economy. Investments in the industry in the last two decades have been made not only by entities from European Union countries, but also from Japan and the USA. The advantage of the region are mineral resources extracted here and a wide and well-trained staff educated among others, at the Kielce University of Technology and construction technical colleges.
It is estimated that in the region there are more than 3 thousand. companies involved in the building sector. Among them, one should name Skanska, Echo Investment, Kartel, Trakt, or Dorbud. Their actions are supplemented by subcontractors specializing in the production and distribution of finishing materials. These are such companies as Alpol construction chemicals manufacturer, Rovese (Cersanit) manufacturer of bathroom ceramics, "Barlinek" for floors or Stolbud Włoszczowa for windows and doors. This list can be extended by thousands of smaller and larger companies of vast experience and high quality.
Also in Świętokrzyskie is headquarters Polskie Składy Budowlane S.A., known throughout the country.
Another item included in the provincial strategy is the Medical Spa and Rehabilitation sector based on the unique qualities of the environment and climate. It is worth noting that the areas included as special in terms of natural assets and legally protected account for 66 percent of area of the whole province. They were already recognized in the nineteenth century, when the first spa in Busko Zdrój appeared. The region ranks third in Poland in terms of mineral water deposits.
The opportunities for this sector are enhanced by the proximity of cities such as Kraków, Katowice, Łódź and Warsaw, and their conurbations. Small distance in conjunction with better and better road network leading to the spas provide opportunities for increased interest in their offer.
Researchers also point to new places, where new spas may arise. These are the Kazimierz county, where the hydrologists expect to find can be very rich deposits of mineral waters.
Currently, in the region there are sanatoriums of a very wide therapeutic and rehabilitation profile. The most popular among tourists are those Busko Zdrój and Solec Zdrój located in Ponidzie and Czarniecka Góra (Końskie County) located in the north-western part of the region, well known in the interwar period.
An important and interesting project from the perspective of the broader healthcare sector is creation of the first Polish Public Stem Cell Bank within the Regional Centre for Science and Technology in Podzamcze, which announces cooperation with similar centers abroad. Świętokrzyskie is the first province, in which soon all mothers, immediately after childbirth, will be able to give free cord blood of their children to a modern bank. It will serve not only (if necessary) to promote the health of the donors, but also of other people, if there is tissue compatibility.
It is also worth mentioning Kielce and the region's pride in the international arena, which opens up new possibilities and a new specialization for the province. Operating within the city limits, Kielce Trade Fair is the second center after Poznan of this kind in Central and Eastern Europe. This modern exhibition and convention center offers 90 thousand sq. m spave including 36 thousand. sq. m in well prepared pavilions. This place is annually visited by 217 thousand visitors from nearly 60 countries. The event that a permanent mark in the calendar of the most important events of the world trade fair is the International Defense Industry Exhibition held here for over 20 years in which its products are shown by major manufacturers of the industry such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
Kielce Trade Fair also has a new Congress Centre, built thanks to EU funds, enabling the organization of large conferences, meetings, symposia and lectures.
The most important schools of Świętokrzyskie include two operating in Kielce - the Jan Kochanowski University in Kielce and the Kielce University of Technology.
The first of these schools has been a classical university since 2011 only. Its history, however, is 45 years old (including previous operation as a Pedagogical College in Kielce and the Świętokrzyska Academy). Now more than 15 thousand people are currently studying there. Among the most important majors offered by the university are: philology, business Russian, business and administration, history, political science, pedagogy, painting, physics, chemistry, mathematics, biology, geography, computer science, environmental protection, management, political science, economics. Soon, the school will start running medical studies. Today, the Faculty of Health Sciences already trains future physiotherapists, nurses, and midwives.
The second important university in Kielce is the Kielce University of Technology. Almost 10,000 students are currently studying there (CSO, 2013). The most important majors include building, environmental engineering, computer management and modeling, electronics, automation, computer science, mechanical engineering and mechatronics.
The offer of the largest public universities is complemented by non-public schools. According to CSO calculations, in November 2013 studied 38 thousand. persons studied in Świętokrzyskie, of which 19.7 thousand full-time mode and 18.3 thousand extramural.
According to the 2012 report of the Polish Agency for Enterprise Development, “Business and Innovation Centers in Poland”, in Świętokrzyskie there were 24 such institutions then, most of which, 10, in Kielce.
In Świętokrzyskie there are, among others, technology parks. The largest of these is the Kielce Technology Park (KTP). It is constantly being upgraded, including with the participation of European funds. A place to conduct business was found there by 100 residents so far. In this framework, also operates a technology incubator. Another center is the Regional Centre for Science and Techology in Podzamcze located near Chęciny at national road No. 7.
Since 2001, a Regional Center for Innovation and Technology Transfer (ŚCITT) has been operating in Kielce; it is now owned by the Świętokrzyskie local government and the Kielce University of Technology. As stated on the website of the institution, its mission is “to support local businesses and stimulate the development of the Świętokrzyskie region” among others through the transfer of scientific and research achievements, economic information for the SME sector, the ISO quality systems, distance learning via the Internet as well as trade shows and conferences. Among the tasks facing the ŚCITT is also the acquisition of EU funds to support innovative production, services, management and education.
Valuable institutions for entrepreneurs, starting or developing their business, include Świętokrzyski Guarantee Fund, Loan Fund of Świętokrzyskie Province and Końskie Association for the Support of Entrepreneurship.
In summary, the Świętokrzyski region is distinguished by a number of advantages that can attract investors here frfom Poland and abroad. The Polish Information and Foreign Investment Agency (PAIiIZ) puts here special attention on the “large qualified staff” for the needs of both the industry as well as many other areas of the economy. This is affected mainly by developed educational base permitting both schooling at a professional level and higher - technical and humanistic education.
An important element of the attractiveness of the region is its well-developed economic infrastructure. PAIiIZ mentions, among others, many financial institutions having their head offices both in Kielce and other major cities of the region.
The south of the region, along with the booming agriculture gives great opportunities for food and agriculture production. The constantly growing database of organic producers and the growing demand, also in the region, for such products should be emphasized.
The region is also distinguished by an extensive range of spa therapy, complemented by mineral springs of properties important for health, the growing number of resorts, hotels and lodging, among others, on farms.
All that is complemented by better and better, constantly modernized road infrastructure permitting regional and interprovincial connections, as well as the major conurbations such as Warsaw, Krakow, Łódź, Rzeszów or Katowice.