Participants of a seminar with a focus on internal potentials for urban development debated the importance of family businesses to the development of cities and towns.

The Association of Polish Cities has organised its thirteenth online seminar forming part of the Local Development Forum “Endogenic Potential Activation as a Condition of Small and Medium-sized City/Town Development in Poland” series. On 3 December, meeting participants discussed the importance of family businesses to urban development.

Seminar organisers intended to emphasise the great local significance of family businesses, and how important it is to assist them and foster their development. Not only do family businesses bring high income to families and the local government – they also impede the outflow of younger residents while boosting social capital and the local community’s identity.

“We are revisiting economic development as a focal theme of Local Development Forum seminars”, said Deputy Director of the Office of the Association of Polish Cities Tomasz Potkański when opening the meeting.

Economic development comprises something akin to a natural process of assigning roles. Local Government Units should provide conditions, infrastructure and incentives for sound economic development – businesses, on the other hand, create jobs and generate prosperity. The business sector remains the fundamental source of tax income, letting local governments operate and provide social services as required.

“Whenever considering economic development, it is hugely important to use internal and external resources with considerable skill,” Tomasz Potkański said. “While we have been providing business development conditions for external investors for thirty years and using European Union funding for twenty, local businesses remain an insufficiently appreciated resource available to us.”

Family businesses are, in all likelihood, the largest business group, the subsector with its own specificity and issues. To local government representatives, the most important family business quality is that of their stable rooting in the local community. As emphasised by deputy mayor of Starachowice Aneta Nasternak, family businesses have a good feel for their cities and towns, urban local development much closer to their hearts than those of any third-party investor. “Family businesses are a great stabilising factor to local economy”, said sectoral advisor to the Association of Polish Cities Tomasz Kayser in his presentation. “Rather than seeking quick profit, they focus on long-term development and operational continuity. Under biased stereotype pressure, companies have begun avoiding the ‘family business’ moniker. Yet according to the prevailing belief, family businesses are still an amazingly solid ‘business school’”.

The family business subsector has its own issues, succession most recently the hottest topic of all: according to multiple surveys, young people have been declaring that they have no interest in joining or continuing their parents’ family businesses, and intend to seek employment with large multinationals. As admitted by president of the Association of Family Business Initiatives Ewa Sobkiewicz, family businesses do not really have a sense of multifaceted assistance, while everyone ought to comprehend that family businesses are the salt of local earth, having chosen to establish their companies in Poland to offer income as well as development potential.

Meeting participants were informed of the outcomes of a survey held in the community of young people and businesses as part of the “Local Development” Programme. Local government representatives from Starachowice, Zabrze and Rydułtowy discussed the impact of study and analysis outcomes on the appraisal of changes to the urban socio-economic condition in terms of local potentials and deficits uncovered, change consequences brought to light, and activities initiated. A representative of the Municipal Authority of Gdynia spoke of case studies of initiating collaboration with, and providing support to the local-level family business sector.