Erceg’s Connecting You to Croatia Blog: Transitioning Industry in Osijek, February 14, 2018

Written by: Aleksandar Erceg, Co-Chair, Leadership Wisconsin 2018 Croatia Seminar

Osijek, Slavonia – what you will see and hear, and what we will only mention…

During last year’s pre-visit to Osijek and Slavonia by the seminar co-chairs, we presented the best of what Osijek can offer in entrepreneurship, industry, agriculture and the IT sector. And yet we said how far our development is from western EU countries. So, this created question marks in eyes of your co-chairs and organizers – how come we are so bad but we are so good? I hope you can understand me. But to clarify this I will talk today about industry In Osijek.

The Osijek area used to be much more industrialized and a broad range of goods and products were being manufactured here. One of the earliest factories was the Drava match factory, established in 1856, which no longer exists. Other industries included the production of synthetic materials, agricultural machinery, metal furniture, wood and timber, textiles, footwear, and silk, as well as metal processing and printing. However, the 1990s saw most of these industries decline and, in some cases, close completely. But that was before automation and modernization, which came in last 30 years. And of course, we had war. Today Osijek industry has few important locations. The Saponia chemical factory (www.saponia.hr) is the largest factory located in the Osijek area – founded in 1894. It is a major producer of detergents, soap, and cosmetics whose products are recognized throughout the region as being of quality. Other industries include a regional brewery, the Pivovara Osijek (first Croatian beer) (www.pivovara.hr) – founded in 1664, a sugar processing plant founded in 1905, as well as a candy factory, Kandit (www.kandit.hr), and Niveta brush factory founded as Siva in 1922. In recent years, the agricultural company Žito (www.zito.hr) has became one of the beacons of Osijek industry (you will visit the company during your stay in Osijek). The rest of the big companies are gone. Osijek today has several SMEs which are employing people, but not more large employees (Osijek Clinical Hospital is the largest employer with more than 3.000 employees).

If we look around Osijek, we have several agriculture companies like Belje, Osatina, PIK Vinkovci, PIK Vukovar, etc. which employ a large number of people but again not as they used to since automation has come to agriculture as well. Today these companies are pioneers in Croatia for using drones in their businesses and these are good examples of corporate entrepreneurship in agriculture.

Your visit to the Osijek, and themes for two days, ‘Entrepreneurship – from Vision to Action’ and ‘Innovating in Agriculture’ could not describe better Osijek and our current situation. After the big companies and companies with long tradition closed their doors or lowered the number of employees, the answer for new jobs was in entrepreneurship. Although sometimes from necessity and not from opportunity, it started a motion which brought and created new companies which are now representing Osijek and its surroundings. Also, innovations in agriculture brought new companies that have outgrown old representatives and made them invest in their equipment in order to maintain and grow competitiveness in the market. Belje and their vinery, and Žito with their ham production, are examples of innovations in agriculture where automation has created excellence in production and increased competitiveness.

Another entrepreneurial idea was the founding of Osijek Software City, an association of IT companies which made Osijek the IT center of Croatia and “created” a problem for the IT companies – they can’t find employees. The solution? In cooperation with our University they started graduate program for IT employees. An excellent example of academia and entrepreneur cooperation.

As last time I will stop now since I am losing the train of my thoughts. Read you soon 😊

Ero

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