A potential foreign investor considering Poland as its next investment venue can take advantage of a variety of support tools provided by the Polish public administration at every stage of the decision making process and subsequently over the course of the entire investment venture. Many are managed or implemented by the government and its agencies, though in practice every investor is bound to engage with local government authorities at one moment or another.

Systemic assistance is provided by specialised central institutions with the Polish Investment & Trade Agency (PAIH) in the lead. Investors can also obtain assistance locally and regionally. Systemically, it is mostly municipalities and voivodeships that are vested with the majority of tasks envisaging assistance to investors. Municipalities, often comprised of a few smaller villages or towns and sometimes made up of a single larger city, hold a special position in the Polish administrative system, and all tasks that are not reserved for other administrative bodies are handled by municipal bodies.
Investor support centres operated in collaboration with the Polish Investment & Trade Agency play a special role in this structure, and they are most frequently managed by voivodeship heads or companies owned by them. A good example of this support is the Invest in Pomerania venture. This is a project initiated years ago by Gdańsk, Gdynia and Sopot, as well as the Pomeranian voivodeship and the local economic zone, with the aim of lifting administrative barriers and promoting the opportunities offered by the Tricity metropolis. Local authorities know that for foreign investors unfamiliar with the Polish political regime or local specifics, the Tricity may appear to be a large conglomeration with barely discernible internal boundaries. Invest in Pomerania is a ‘one-stop-shop’ spot, and it offers a wide range of aid options, from developing an information report, through the selection and identification of incentives and investment grants, to organising meetings with prospective local business partners and local authorities.
The range of available grants and incentives is diverse. Apart from the most extensive ones offered centrally by the state, there are numerous local opportunities to choose from, including, for instance, tax reliefs offered by special economic zones. Not all incentives are monetary in nature, especially those offered by the city; they often consist in organisational assistance, e.g. recruitment support, a range of scholarships and internships offered by the Employment Agencies subordinate to the local governments, changes in the arrangement of the educational offering (in smaller towns municipalities oversee kindergartens and primary schools and in larger cities also secondary schools) or the provision of transportation services to the investment site (new bus lines, timetable adjustments, location of bus stops, etc.). In particular, on a candidate-driven market, the level of public administration services which essentially shapes quality of life may affect the choice of a given investment venue. The good news is that Polish local governments are generally open to conversations on assistance, and all large cities have their own investor support centres. These centres cooperate not only with regional but also national centres. They also develop information and sales reports (because attractive real properties are not always, but often owned by and purchased from local governments) and present them at numerous investment fairs with a particular focus on the MIPIM in Cannes and Expo Real in Munich.
The Gdynia-based centre operates in a similar way to the regional centre, as a one-stop-shop. The municipality is responsible for a number of issues relevant to the investor, e.g. issuance of construction permits. It is particularly important for the investor to be able to keep in touch with an employee who may not be competent to handle all issues but has the expertise and skills to manage the entire investment-preparation procedure and can provide information and assistance regarding a wide range of issues from the local labour market, through complex construction procedures and facilitating the arrangement of appointments with local authorities.
It is worth noting that such assistance is of crucial importance, especially during the pre-investment stage. In Poland, municipalities also deal with zoning issues. For instance, it is up to municipality councils what type of building and what building volume may be erected and what functions different facilities may perform. If there is a zoning plan, it is impossible to issue a permit for the construction of an investment with parameters that differ from those specified within it. If no zoning plan exists for a given region, in some cases investments may be possible anyway, provided that other investments having a similar purpose, shape, or volume have already been erected in the vicinity. However, most of the time, a zoning plan must first be adopted. Often, the procedure is initiated following a request submitted by a prospective investor. Both the turnaround time for the adoption of the plan and its content often depend on the quality of cooperation and open communication between stakeholders. If the given procedure is complex, the opinion of the local community must be taken into account, and in some cases, external authorities such as the historic monument conservator must also be consulted.
A foreign investor’s first encounter with local authorities is often their website. We recommend consulting these websites, as they are often updated on a regular basis and offer a good overview of the location in question. They also allow the investor to learn about other businesses that already operate in the given city or region. The staff of regional and municipal centres offer assistance in establishing contacts with the management boards of existing companies so that the detailed albeit heartless analysis of data and costs is backed up by honest opinions from entrepreneurs who are already present on the given market and have the relevant investment experience, independently from the public administration.