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Krakow takes poll position as Poland's technology center

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Krakow is rapidly becoming an attractive place for international businesses to open or expand offices, especially technology and accounting companies. In fact, so many tech companies are moving in or adding facilities that some local officials are dubbing the Krakow area the tech capital of Poland. The surge in international companies?
 
interest in locating in Krakow has led to a boom in office-building construction. IBM and Accounting Plaza caused excitement in the business community recently by announcing they would expand their activities in Krakow. They signed leases with Globe Trade Center S.A. on Feb. 21 for a lot more office space. IBM will now lease 14,000 square meters in three office buildings, a 21-percent increase from the 11,000 square meters it had been using. It employs about 1,600 people in the area. Accounting Plaza will lease about 3,000 square meters, a 66-percent increase from the 2,000 meters it had been using. It employs about 350 people. The leased space will be in Globe Trade Center’s three-building Aleja Armii Krajowej office complex.
 
Other tech companies that are in Krakow include Google, HCL Technologies, UBS, Electric 80 and Motorola. In addition, the popular Polish Internet portals Onet and Interia have their home here. And CapGemini, Philip Morris and Shell are among companies that have located outsourcing offices here. Krakow Mayor Jacek Majchrowski sees the IBM and Accounting Plaza decisions as additional evidence of the wisdom of the city’s decision to promote the academic prowess of the area as a way to attract high-tech and business-service companies. Krakow has some of the best universities in Poland.
 
Majchrowski noted that in 2002 Krakow had only one top-flight office building whereas today it boasts several buildings that together offer more than 260,000 square meters of space. In fact, Krakow is second only to Warsaw in the amount of new office space available, according to the consulting company CBRE, which monitors the real-estate market. The demand for office space has led to a jump in the number of office developers in the Krakow area. Analysts project over 15 new office buildings opening by the end of 2009.Krakow residents can expect to see new office buildings popping up in all districts except Old Town, according to city officials.
 
Globe Trade Center S.A. is a prime example of a developer not limiting itself to the market in Krakow, but expanding into other regions of Poland. Globe Trade Center, the company with whom IBM and Accounting Plaza signed the leases last month, plans to add two more buildings to its array in the area. It already boasts the Galileo, Newton and Edison buildings in its Aleja Armii Krajowej complex. It will add a Pascal building there as well. And it will construct a building in the Galeria Kazimierz area.
 
The availability of new office space is not the only incentive for international companies to come to Krakow. John Lyons of Krakow’s IBM operation said the area also has a strong economy, a progressive business environment and good infrastructure. Then there is the skilled workforce, especially engineers and accountants. Anna Pankau of Accounting Plaza told Gazeta Wyborcza that one reason the company choice Krakow was because its universities are producing talented accounting graduates. The graduates it has hired showed Krakow was a wise chose, she said.
 
One in four Polish children lives in poverty, according to a European Commission report and many are hungry, according to other sources. Poland ranks last among the 27 EU countries in child poverty, lower than Romania and Bulgaria. Much of the child-poverty problem in Poland revolves around the fact that many Polish couples have lots of children. The poverty level that the European Commission has set for each EU country is as high as 60 percent of the average salary in the poorer countries. In Poland the poverty level is anything below an annual salary of 1,200 zloty per month. In Poland, the average salary is 2,500 zloty. The poverty level involves subsistence – money available to be spent on food, rent and clothing. Many families can pay for subsistence but lack the money to help their children achieve a better life. For example, they can’t afford books or other educational amenities for their children. And they can’t afford tickets to concerts, the theater or movies or money for travel. Children in poor families often go hungry. One in three children in Poland goes to school without breakfast, according to the non-profit Polish Humanitarian Action organization. As many as 150,000 children who are going hungry are not part of a national program that provides money for additional nutrition for poor children. Donata Rapacka helps coordinate the Polish Humanitarian Action organization’s Pajacyk program, which collects funds to pay for school meals for poor children. She says about a fourth of the children who go hungry each day get some meal assistance from the government. Those who want to donate to the Pajacyk program may go to the organization’s Web site at www.pajacyk.pl. They can click on the empty belly of a wooden clown on the site to learn how to give money. Hunger-related illness can take a big toll on children in poor families. If there is fungus in the home that parents lack the money to treat, or if there is no money for medicine, a child is vulnerable. Even a trip to an outhouse can chill a child to the point that he or she gets sick. “Children ill because of poverty are victims of a flawed social welfare system”, said Joanna Kluzik-Rostkowska, a former minister of labor who is now a member of parliament. “If we have any additional funds in the budget, they should be directed to the youngest among us”, she said.
 
Many people in capitalistic societies believe people should take care of themselves. That is a far cry from the Communist system of the state taking care of those least able to care for themselves. But no society with a conscience can turn its back on needy children. The very reputation of a democratic society is at stake when it is unable to take care of the most helpless among it, especially children. The Polish government is trying to supply children’s basic needs. Its programs to pay for school lunches and additional nutrition for poor children are making a difference in many children’s lives. But poor children’s needs go beyond subsistence. Village children in particular need education and skills – such as computer training – to help them break out of poverty. Without that help, they will continue living on the margins of society as consumers of government benefits rather than providers of the tax money necessary to make society stronger.