It is rich in mineral resources, thus giving rise to the mining industry. The Voivodeship’s industry is based on rich coal resources and zinc and lead ores; methane, natural gas, marl and natural aggregates are also available, not to mention therapeutic, thermal and mineral waters.
The expansion of industry in the region has caused the formation of a number of industrial centres, closely bound to each other, of which the largest are: Katowice, Bytom, Gliwice, Zabrze, Chorzów, Sosnowiec, Ruda Śląska, Rybnik, Jastrzębie-Zdrój, Jaworzno, Bielsko-Biała, and Częstochowa.
Arguably, it is difficult to point out the leading industrial or business centre – the whole region has become one large economic centre. However, the Upper Silesian Industrial District played the leading role in Silesia (covering an area of app. 1,200 km2 and 14 cities) with its coal mining, iron, zinc and lead metallurgy, electrical industry, chemical industry and minerals. The food, light and wood-cellulose industries were somewhat weaker.
Post-1989 system changes, transformation of the economy, Poland’s accession to the EU and changing world markets have contributed to the inevitable fact that mining and heavy industry are no longer the standard economic pillars of the country, and even of the region. Silesian companies generate 13.1% of the GDP (ranking as second, surpassed only by the Mazowieckie Voivodeship). However, the share of market and non-market services amounts to nearly 60% and industry – 33%, and accordingly, the region holds the leading position in Poland.
The region’s most significant industries are: coal mining, iron, zinc and lead metallurgy, the power industry, electrical industry, food industry and chemicals, and recently – the automotive industry.
Mining and metallurgy have both been subjected to serious changes. As a result of restructuring and streamlining, employment in mining has dropped from 243,000 in 1997 to app. 107,000 in 2011. On the other hand, metallurgy has been subjected to changes in ownership and management structure, and consequently, the industry has been practically completely privatized.
The fuel and power industry is also undergoing vigorous changes. Due to the heavy concentration of industry, the Śląskie Voivodeship has become the country’s top electrical power producer (app. 20% of the national total).
The share of mining and metallurgy (not so long ago, the region’s dominating branches) in the region’s industry is decreasing; on the other hand, the role of electrical industry, IT and electrical power industry, and especially of the automotive industry (the region is the country’s largest automobile manufacturer) and food industry – is clearly on the rise.
Over 400,000 businesses are registered in the Śląskie Voivodeship. The largest group among them are individuals and commercial law companies. The group of state enterprises is the least numerous.
96% of the businesses constitute the private sector.
The top ten companies in the Voivodeship (as at 2012) are: Tauron Polska Energia SA Grupa Kapitałowa (power industry), Fiat Auto Poland SA (automotive industry), Arcellorittal Polana SA Grupa Kapitałowa (metallurgy), Kompania Węglowa SA Grupa Kapitałowa (mining), Jastrzębska Spółka Węglowa SA Grupa Kapitałowa (mining), Tauron Wytwarzanie SA (power industry), Farmacol SA Grupa Kapitałowa (pharmaceutical industry), Katowicki Holding Węglowy SA (mining), EDF Rybnik SA Grupa Kapitałowa (power industry) and Grupa Żywiec SA (food industry). Nearly 200.000 employees are employed by these ten top companies alone. Recent times mark a profound expansion of the automotive industry (as mentioned above), IT and BPO (so-called “High-opportunity sectors”). The automotive branch in the Voivodeship is constantly increasing employment and output. In particular, this applies to Fiat Auto Poland (Tychy), General Motors Manufacturing Poland, Tenneco Automotive Eastern Europe (Gliwice) and Valeo (Czechowice-Dziedzice).
A significant incentive for automotive investors in the Voivodeship is undoubtedly the presence of highly skilled staff personnel at the vocational, intermediate and higher level (nearly 30% of students in Silesia are studying at technical institutions of higher learning). Numerous R & D institutions operate in the region, which may provide valuable support for this industry.
One reason of the Voivodeship’s success as an IT centre to be reckoned with is the availability of employees. This is most unique and valuable – Polish specialists more and more often provide services to foreign customers. The Śląskie Voivodeship has a large concentration of high-tech and IT companies in Poland.
Some of the largest software manufacturers, not only from Poland, are based here, such as: IBM Polska Sp. z o.o. (Katowice); Wasko (Gliwice); COJG (Katowice) (Centralny Ośrodek Informatyki Górnictwa S.A.); Logotec Engineering S.A. (Mysłowice); BPSC S.A. (Chorzów); Ente (Gliwice). Solution providers also have their offices in the area: Comarch (Katowice); VSoft (Częstochowa); and Asseco Poland S.A. (Bielsko-Biała, Katowice and Gliwice).
The Silesia region has become an attractive location for BPO and SSC (such as call centres) centres. As the Śląskie Voivodeship is situated in the very centre of Europe, it is has become attractive for investors. Nonetheless, the availability of highly skilled employees is the key reason. 181,000 students are studying at the 45 university-level institutions in the region. Katowice is the largest Silesian academic centre with its technical, medical, economic and humanities institutions of higher learning. The most popular studies in the Śląskie Voivodeship are management and marketing, finance and banking, and economics. The leading institutions include: Uniwersytet Śląski (Silesian University), Politechnika Śląska (Silesian Technical University), Politechnika Częstochowska (Częstochowa Technical University), and Uniwersytet Ekonomiczny (University of Economics) in Katowice. It is worth remembering that over 97% of Silesian students completes their education with good proficiency in English.
Due to the region’s skilled Polish personnel, a well-developed transport infrastructure and modern, constantly updated information and communications technology (I.C.T.) infrastructure, the following companies, inter alia, have situated their BPO and SSC centres in the region: Gallup Polska (Ruda Śląska) - call centre; ING Bank Śląski (Katowice) – settlement centre; Fiat (Bielsko-Biała) – financial and accounting services centre; Avio Polska (Bielsko-Biała) – R & D centre, production centre; Capgemini (Katowice) – IT, advisory and outsourcing services; Ernst & Young (Katowice) – accounting and financial advisory services; tax and transaction consulting; Comarch (Katowice) – IT outsourcing services and consulting; PwC (Katowice) – advisory services (inter alia tax, legal, financial and consulting advice; DHL Polska (Dąbrowa Górnicza) - distribution centre.
Getting back to the Voivodeship’s infrastructure, a brief presentation of its advantages in terms of transport by rail, road and air is justified.
Over 50% of national railroad shipping takes place in the Silesia region. The Voivodeship has the highest railroad network density ratio in Poland – 15.5 km per 100 km2, on the other hand, this figure for Poland as a whole is barely 6.5 km per 100 km2. The share of electrified lines in the Voivodeship is nearly 80% - one of the highest ratios in the country. One of the largest railroad junctions in Europe is situated in Tarnowskie Góry. The Centralna Magistrala Kolejowa (CMK) assures transport between Bielsko, Katowice and Warsaw, and between Katowice and Gdańsk – the Magistrala Portowa. The Euroterminal in Slawków must also be mentioned. It is the most westward junction point of wide-gauge and normal-gauge railways, operating in accordance with European standards. The terminal has an internal railway network, both wide-gauge and European standard, and accordingly, it is connected with the cargo flow system along the Asia and Far East – Western Europe axis.
As for road transport, the Śląskie Voivodeship is the crossroad of two of ten trans-European routes: Corridor III (Berlin - Wrocław - Katowice - Kraków - Lvov) and Corridor VI (Gdańsk - Katowice - Žilina). The Voivodeship is considered to be an area with very good transport access not only because of the main routes, but also due to the very high density of road infrastructure. The region has a highly developed city transit system – iner alia, over 393 km of street car tracks. The A-1 and A-4 Motorways cross in the region, or in other words, European Road E75, a part of the Pan-European transport corridor (North-South) connecting Scandinavia and Mediterranean Sea countries. The Corridor runs from the Baltic Sea through the Czech Republic and Slovakia to Austria, and will become a modern transport connection between Gdańsk and Vienna. Śośnica k/ Gliwic is an important transport junction – where the A-1 and A-4 Motorways meet; A-4 is the best land route from the region to Germany.
The Katowice International Airport is situated app. 30 km north of Katowice, in Pyrzowice. It is used by passengers from southern Poland, as well as from the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The airport is a key ingredient of the Voivodeship’s transport structure. As it is situated 303 m above sea level, the weather conditions are much better than at other Polish airports. The number of passengers in Pyrzowice in 2012 amounted to over 2.5 million. The number of passengers is constantly on the rise –as compared against 2004 (the year of Poland’s accession to the EU), the number of passengers has increased by over 408%. An analysis of the passenger traffic appears to indicate that business trips are dominant. Approximately 80% of arriving and departing passengers at Katowice International Airport claimed business as the reason for their trip.
The situation in the real estate is favourable for business investment and expansion.
There is no lack of office space (Katowice is the leader); the supply of commercial premises is also increasing (in terms of its availability, Katowice ranks as second to Warsaw, the nation’s capital). As for warehouse space, the Voivodeship has resources of 1.5 million m2, and is a leader among regional markets in this area.