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The Klaipėda FEZ community remains active during the COVID-19 pandemic
Over the past few years, the Klaipėda Free Economic Zone (FEZ) has become not only a large industrial zone with an environment and financial conditions that appeal to investors, but also an active, cooperative, knowledge-sharing and socially responsible business community whose members have remained close even with the pandemic. In turn, this has become an advantage for local companies to invest and develop, creating value for the entire coastal region.
Companies at Klaipėda FEZ, as well as the entire port city, have chosen the path of greater competitiveness, higher added value, research, sustainability and automation in recent years. Closer ties in the community and exchanges of their newest practices, experiences, and insights have gained even greater significance as well.
Klaipėda FEZ Service Project Manager Jurgita Bėrontienė explains that after seeing the accumulated experience and competencies of companies in the area, as well as outside demand for their knowledge, last year the FEZ management company created the FEZ Exchange cycle of professional events, seminars, and meetings. These events, aimed at the top and middle management of companies operating in the FEZ, allow the zone’s community to better and more purposefully share their experiences in implementing novelties, overcoming challenges, and discussing business practices, while also benefitting other investors.
“It’s no accident that the slogan for this series of events is Best Expertise Next Door. Having hosted a number of companies that create products or technologies used worldwide, we decided to actively encourage our community members to share their experiences,” J. Bėrontienė said.
According to her, while these meetings shifted to digital platforms during the pandemic, their significance has only grown, as there have been discussions sharing experiences with health and safety, crisis management, and technical, legal, and other questions.
Over the past year, dozens of representatives from FEZ companies shared their knowledge and expanded their outlook at the FEZ Exchange events on topics such as industrial automation, decision-making, the circular economy, waste management, leadership, LinkedIn, internal and external communications, and telework. The FEZ Exchange event series also featured external guest speakers – experts in their respective domains and public sector representatives.
“This project not only proved its worth, but it is even expanding. The FEZ Exchange cycle inspired specialists working in more narrow spheres in the FEZ to come together. We already have the human right’s specialists’ club HR Club actively implementing various projects at the Klaipėda FEZ, organising specialised business lunches, inviting law, cybersecurity and other experts either directly when possible or virtually. What is most important is that these communal initiatives are received very favourably by our current investors who find significant value in it,” J. Bėrontienė comments.
Reidar Inselseth, managing director at fish product maker UAB Espersen Lietuva, concurs. According to him, when companies come together, important decisions are implemented more smoothly and faster.
“By uniting with other companies in the FEZ, we have a stronger voice, especially in terms of joint negotiations with suppliers or when seeking solutions in terms of energy pricing, bike lanes, public transport and other areas. Also, while cooperating, the companies in Klaipėda find valuable contacts for their businesses. For example, we are glad to have AD REM LEZ warehousing services in our neighbourhood. Of course, close communal ties had a vast significance at the start of the lockdown when there was little official information. After coming together, the FEZ companies not only obtained it faster, but they were also able to successfully share their knowledge and practices, as well as implement joint equipment purchases. All of this is great value for investors,” the managing director for Espersen Lietuva says.
It was namely during the pandemic and lockdown that the efforts of the FEZ’s management company to bring together the investor community played a significant role: a special virtual cooperation platform was created for the companies and their close ties allowed for smooth cooperation in sharing operational, legal, medicinal, and other information, as well as sharing in joint purchases of equipment for both companies in the zone and the region’s wider community.
Algimantas Bluškis, director of UAB Vingės Logistika says that the joint work of the FEZ’s management and companies, as well as their sharing of information, proved especially valuable both during the first wave of the pandemic and in preparing for the second wave.
“All this helped us survive and process arising difficulties. Even before the pandemic, our professional and social cooperation allowed us to improve and grow stronger as a community. I believe that investors can be stronger and more competitive by being united and acting in unison,” says A. Bluškis, who took up leadership at the FEZ’s investor Advisory Council this year.
In addition to hosting professional events, meetings, and seminars, the Klaipėda FEZ management community continues to reinforce its social initiatives as well. At the beginning of the pandemic in the spring and summer, without regard for time or cost, the FEZ’s companies provided significant support to Klaipėda medics— both specialists and volunteers fighting for the public’s safety and welfare. J. Bėrontienė considers this support to be a natural decision and not even a question.
“I would say that the greatest novelty this year was the one-week long summer camp we organised for the children of Klaipėda FEZ staff. Together with our partners, we offered our colleagues’ children a rich programme with good conditions, a convenient schedule, and various activities outside of the FEZ territory. It was a pilot project, but it was well-received by the families of FEZ staff, and so we plan to continue the initiative next year as well,” J. Bėrontienė says.
According to her, the FEZ community also values traditional and pilot initiatives such as blood donation healthy eyesight day or its Christmas celebration. Unfortunately, some of these initiatives, such as a planned collaboration with racers from the Dakar Rally, were halted by the pandemic. Nevertheless, the FEZ’s management company expects to return to the idea once circumstances permit it.
“Despite this year’s challenges, the joint activities, events and initiatives of the FEZ community have shown that, when they unite, our companies can create much more value for both one another and for the entire Klaipėda region. Finally, all these activities and initiatives increase our FEZ’s appeal to new investors, and each of them brings new jobs, knowledge, and experiences for the entire city,” J. Bėrontienė says, assuring that such an active community is well prepared to endure the second wave of the pandemic as well.