FDI Awards 2011: Evening for Those Who See and Dare
Foreign direct investment is always an important segment of a country’s economy but it takes on an additional importance during difficult times of financial crisis. To honour companies which refuse to give in to fate and stand strong in the face of adversity, the sixth annual FDI Awards ceremony took place at Ljubljana Castle in mid-October.
“We are here tonight because of those people who dared to search for positive changes,” were the opening words of the first honorary speaker Zoran Janković, the mayor of Ljubljana. The event to celebrate foreign contributions to the Slovenian economy was organised by The Slovenia Times, the Public Agency for the Promotion of Foreign Investments and Entrepreneurship (JAPTI) and the Ministry of the Economy and was attended by numerous key figures in the field of business and investment alongside diplomats and other guests.
This year four prestigious awards were given. The winners were selected by a special expert jury who focused not only on business success but also on the extent of social responsibility the company has shown. Any company with at least 10 percent of foreign capital, a positive business result in 2010, more than EUR 1m in revenues and at least 10 employees was eligible for the competition.
A role model
The first award was bestowed upon Goodyear Dunlop Sava Tyres. The judging panel decided to give the firm a special prize, concluding that the company’s size and tradition is such that it cannot be compared to other candidates for the FDI awards. The Slovenian-based tyre-manufacturing company is a hub for all markets of Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe and the jury described it as a role model of financial management. In 2010 it increased revenues and profit, both of which were high above the Slovenian average. In addition, the company invested EUR 11m in technology development. The company’s chief executive Thierry Villard accepted the award and was clearly very proud of the achievement: “It means a lot to me and to all of us,” he said. “I’m very proud of our workers. Regarding that being recognised is a long term commitment, I see this award as an encouragement for the future.”
When it came to the large companies award, it was the achievements of Julon which impressed the jury. The firm, which produces filaments for buildings and cars, significantly increased sales in 2010 and achieved a high added value for their products. Their performance, the jury argued, is proof that it is possible to achieve success even with negative global economic factors. Giulio Bonazzi, the chief executive of Italian firm Aquafil which owns Julon, sees the award as proof of his employees’ good work: “Companies are successful only if they have a good team and this award says just that which is very important. However it is not common to receive such recognition and I am happy to have come to work in Slovenia.”
Bonazzi highlighted that his company has invested close to EUR 150m in Slovenia since 1995 and says that such investments will continue. Julon was praised for the innovation that investments have brought about. Earlier this year, it launched a high-tech project in Ljubljana. Some EUR 17m has been ploughed into Econyl, a unique project which involves recycling waste into the base material for the manufacture of fibres, foils and raw materials.
Another organisation recognised for its efforts in improving the environment was company performance award winner Saubermacher Slovenija. The waste management company is heavily involved in recycling and has seen constant and stable revenue growth. This, along with support from JAPTI, has allowed it to increase its workforce by 20 percent since 2008. There are now 128 members of staff at the company.
Director Mojca Letnik said the company has not expected the award: “We are very honoured that someone has noticed our work and results. All our employees and management are Slovenians and the owners are very proud of that. The award is an additional challenge to perform even better.”
The final award went to a newly established firm. Glass manufacturer Ertl Glas Steklo took home the Greenfield award for its project to launch a new production facility in the southern town of Ribnica. The EUR 8m project will create 80 new jobs and, according to company director Andrej Zrinski, the prize will motivate these new members of staff: “The award is a motivation for the employees as they are all only beginning a certain project. Also it means recognition of the fact that such investments are possible in such difficult times.”
Changes on the Horizon
Indeed JAPTI director Igor Plestenjak emphasised that, in spite of the crisis, there are lots of developing opportunities in Slovenia: “We set a record in delivering projects and giving incentives last year. According to researches, we can expect a bright future.”
Minister for Foreign Affairs Samuel Žbogar was also at the event and said he is aware that it is not always easy for investors to find their way in the Slovenian market due to the regulatory system. He praised the determination, courage and confidence of existing investors but acknowledged that the government must do more to attract firms from overseas: “To improve competitiveness and increase FDI, reforms are a must to unleash the full potential of Slovenia. But those who see beyond the current economic situation can experience that persistence pays off.”
With the serious business of the evening out of the way it was time for fun. The ceremony concluded with an outstanding performance from singer Maja Keuc and guests were then able to relax, network and enjoy good food and glorious Miro Vino, Prinčič, Santomas and Vinag. wines. Business met pleasure and appreciation of the event was felt everywhere, as Gertrud Rantzen, director of the Slovenian-German Chamber of Commerce explained: “The entire event is a stimulation for companies and is a very important platform for exchanging ideas, experiences and transmitting certain information towards the official authorities.” Such platforms are surely more important than ever in a time of economic crisis. And with the government promising to do more to attract foreign investors, there is hope that next year will see more companies than ever in the running for one of these prestigious and important awards.
More photos from the event are on our Facebook page
FDI Invest Slovenia Awards 2011 - Ljubljana castle, 13 October 2011
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