The Center for Business Promotion and Entrepreneurship in Sandomierz, Poland is a non-profit foundation founded in 1991 to help lead and accelerate the post-communist economic transition in rural southeastern Poland. Its early programs concentrated on agribusiness development. In recent years its efforts expanded into general business development as well as into public sector economic and development planning. The following narrative documents the history of this viable and vital organization, as it gears up to celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2012.
The mission and principal goal of the Center is to improve existing businesses, create new businesses and employment, and develop sustainable sources of income for rural communities in southeast Poland. The Center focuses on helping individuals and communities harness private enterprise and democratic principles as a means to sustainable economic and social development.
The Center’s well-qualified experienced staff provides consulting and training services, financial services (loans) and technical assistance to micro, small and medium-sized businesses, entrepreneurs and farmers, non-government organizations, local governments and rural youth in southeastern Poland.
The Center’s primary areas of expertise are:
- Business Advisory Services: Training and consulting services for micro, small and medium-sized businesses focused on increasing client business profits and competitiveness --- provided within the Business Advisory Services (BAS) Department.
- Loan Fund: Loan-granting program established by the Foundation for small scale entrepreneurs and business start-ups.
- Local Government and Community Development: Assistance to local governments in building democracy and successful, community-based economic development --- provided within the Local Government and NGO Department.
- Rural Areas Development: Training and education on the structures of the European Union focused on agribusiness, farmers and the development of rural southeastern Poland --- provided within the Rural Areas Development Department.
- International Consulting and Training Services: Designing and providing training and study tour visits for individuals and groups of business entrepreneurs, agriculture producers and processors, business development consultants, and others from Central and Eastern Europe countries, and the former Soviet States.
- Training and Conferences Services: Open training and regularly scheduled courses and custom-designed closed training programs provided in the Center’s residential training and conference facility, called Hotel Basztowy.
The Center operates from its headquarters in Sandomierz, and from regional sub-offices located in Busko-Zdrój, Ostrowiec Świętkorzyski, and Stalowa Wola in Świętokrzyskie and Podkarpackie voivodeships.
Since 2006, the Center has held PN-EN ISO 9001:2001 certification in the provision of training, financial and advisory services.
The Center cooperates with a wide range of local as well as international agencies. It is an active member of the national Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Services Network of more than 200 accredited non-commercial organizations that cooperate and provide advisory, training, information and financial services for the benefit of micro-businesses, small and medium enterprises and start-ups. The SME Services Network was established by the Polish Agency for Enterprise Development, a leading national agency promoting cooperation among public administration bodies, business sector and non-governmental organizations. In addition to its own direct services, through the SME Services Network the Center provides access to a range of other programs providing advice, training and information for small and medium enterprises, all geared to helping them increase their competitiveness within the European Union (EU).
The Center, as a business support institution, is registered in the register of training institutions in the Voivodeship Unemployment Office in Kielce, which is a prerequisite for obtaining public financial support for trainings for the unemployed and those looking for a job.
The Center is also one of the founding organizations of the Polish Rural Forum, a country-wide cooperation of organizations that support rural areas which was established in December 2002. Since 2005, the Forum has been registered as a union of associations. Under the Forum, the Center participates in consultations and gives opinions concerning government legislative initiatives for rural areas in Poland as well as participates in bottom-up initiatives of non-government organizations undertaken locally for the development of rural areas.
Poland’s National Cohesion Strategy lays out the guidelines for using structural funds and the European Union’s Cohesion Fund and determines the development activities to be undertaken by Poland in 2007 – 2013. The goal is to achieve sustained economic growth, improved competitiveness and increased employment.
The National Cohesion Strategy creates conditions to improve the competitiveness of the Polish economy based on knowledge and entrepreneurship, ensuring an increase in employment and a higher level of social and economic cohesion. That opens new opportunities for Polish businesses, farmers, rural residents, NGOs and local governments to access financial support for their economic and social development initiatives. The Center, as a business support organization, assists them to take advantage of this opportunity by helping them to complete financial analyses, business plans, feasibility and investment studies as well as through the implementation of several programs addressed to specific identified groups, served with training, information, consulting and direct financial support to new established businesses and initiatives.
During the years 2008 – 2010, the Center provided training, advisory services and financial assistance to more than 5500 clients, small- and medium-scale enterprises, start-up businesses, unemployed young people and members of nongovernmental organizations. More than 3300 people received informational services regarding establishing a business and EU structural funds that are available for new initiatives and investments. Advisory services were provided to more than 1300 local entrepreneurs and NGOs. Almost 2100 individuals were trained through various programs focused on entrepreneurial skill development, business operations, available EU supporting programs, project design and management, grant application preparation, as well as in building partnerships using EU support for the benefit of local communities.