“Skanska is the biggest developer in our region in terms of revenue, the square meters we provide to the market, the number of employees, and the geography we cover,” states Katarzyna Zawodna, CEO of Skanska commercial development business in CEE. “We can offer our clients all the important business locations.”
The Skanska Group is headquartered in Stockholm. It has a 130-year history in construction and development, and has been active in the CEE region for the last 30 years. Starting in Budapest, which was the most advanced city in the late 1980s, the group is now active in Prague, Bucharest, Warsaw and Polish regional cities: Krakow, Wroclaw, Lodz, Katowice, Poznan and Gdansk. Commercial development operations, located in CEE, the Nordics, the UK, and the US, are now responsible for half of the revenue of the entire Skanska Group. Moreover, the CEE region is extremely important in this part of the group’s business, generating one third of its profits.
Ms. Zawodna notes that the CEE region is growing at double the average of the 28 EU member countries for several reasons. These include an extensive talent pool of skilled professionals in the region as well as the CEE’s transparent legislation and EU membership that allows the region to be regarded by investors as very safe and stable.
Its location in close proximity to Western countries makes it easy to serve these markets as well. And because CEE started from a relatively low level, it has a great opportunity to now expand the market in a sustainable way.
“This makes the CEE market a great place to invest. Experts’ forecast for the full year mention that CEE regional commercial real estate volumes may reach 13 billion EUR, which would mean a new record over 2016,” she adds. “And all this development is in compliance with European Union regulations, which entails a minimum of risk.”
Skanska enjoys continuous cooperation with German investors, having developed fourteen buildings in the Czech Republic and Poland for them already. “Today we have 15 office buildings under construction. To give you an idea of our growth, in the 30 years we have been present in the region, we have developed almost 780,000 m², and currently have 320,000 m² of new office space under construction,” says Ms. Zawodna. “Transactions in 2016 amounted to 211 million EUR, which reflects the great potential of this market.”
From 2016 to 2020, Skanska’s aim is to double its business in the region, and it is well on track to do this. Skanska commercial development business in CEE employs 210 people in ten locations in CEE, active in project management, leasing, divestments and investor relations.
Being a part of the overall Skanska Group, which includes residential and retail development as well, gives Ms. Zawodna the opportunity to be involved in larger mixed-function projects. The CEO considers mixing functions as crucial to the development of cities that will be sustainable in the future. “Contributing to sustainable development is high on our agenda,” she notes.
Skanska decided to invest in Business Link – the largest network of co-working space and private offices in Poland, which also has international expansion plans. They will create flexible office spaces that are affordable for start-ups, SMEs and established companies in the business service sector, which facilitates their mutual cooperation.
In the next three to four years, a network of twelve new locations in CEE, totalling approximately 45,000 to 50,000 m², will be built. Skanska also focuses on its projects’ certification to guarantee the best working standards available on the market. The company was the first commercial real estate developer in Poland to submit most of its office buildings to a thorough accessibility audit, conducted by the Integration Foundation.
“Proximity to public transportation, sidewalk-level entrances, large elevators providing the ability to maneuver, clear visual information all allow for new job opportunities for people who would otherwise be excluded, such as those with hearing or sight impairments or mobility limitations,” Ms. Zawodna enthuses. “A large group of people have some form of disability. For instance in Poland, it’s up to 14% of our society and it would be rather unreasonable not to use their talents.”
She adds that companies like Skanska are designing buildings and workplaces of the future, that will maintain their functionality over time. They change cities, and they have a great responsibility to make a positive difference by choosing sustainable options.
In the competition for talent, companies need to attract people with more than just a desk and a laptop. The location of the office is also very important, as well as the amenities in the area, and the services provided for tenants in a building.
Skanska is building direct relations with stakeholders, and reaching out to investors and potential tenants to help companies make decisions on such aspects. Ms. Zawodna observes that it is great to have both local expertise and global experience at her fingertips in the Skanska Group.
As a self-financing, stable and reliable partner, they provide a quality which is of the highest global standard. “Yet part of our DNA is that human beings are the most important asset of any organization; we are not working B2B, but people to people,” concludes Ms. Zawodna. “We want to cooperate with partners and share our values. The values we build on are real, and we live by them. That is why I fell in love with this company twelve years ago.”