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Investor Assistance Centers - for everyone, not only tycoons

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Would you like to invest a few billion dollars? Or maybe just a couple of thousand? Are you looking for a reliable business partner in a certain country? Do you think of buying or selling a land designated for an industrial production or services? And finally, maybe you just want to promote your brand, your company or your product? In each case the institution of InvestorAssistanceCenter should be of a great help for you.

What exactly are InvestorAssistanceCenters or InvestorServiceCenters (as names may vary depending on the country)? In general, IAC (a commonly used abbreviation) are units usually founded by local or regional self-governments. Their main aim, as their names suggest, is to help (potential) investors with all the procedures required by the local and central law and with getting necessary information in order to start an investment. In other words, the main role of IAC is to assist an entrepreneur with almost every aspect of his project, which he is going to locate in a certain area. While this kind of assistance may be unnecessary for domestic investors who are familiar with the laws and customs of their native country, in the case of foreign entrepreneurs (especially from distant states) it is often really desired. Particularly once an investor wish to be informed about investment details. In this case, professional on-line catalogues (such as the one on Expochart.com) are no more sufficient. 

The centers are to be found easily through official government websites and business promotional materials. As a rule they are linked from the webpages of ministry of economy, industry, export, promotion, business, investments, entrepreneurship etc. Additionally, the centers are present on most important, spectacular and large international trade fairs and exhibitions which take place in a country they operate in. They always have their information point during such events and encourage attendees and exhibitors to acquaint with their services. 

As we suggested above, an investor assistance center is a common phenomenon that can be found in almost every nation. Although its name, structure and to some extent the actions it undertakes are slightly different in a given country, the main purpose is always the same. Since attracting investors is the policy of almost every state, a center is a firm element of this policy. Explaining that, we may focus closely on IAC in Poland. This case study should provide a better understanding of these units, no matter what country they are established in.

From the formal perspective, Investor Assistance Centers have been founded on the voivodehip level. (A voivodehip or province in Poland is a high-level administrative subdivision.) They operate within marshal’s offices and regional development agencies. (A marshal is the head of a voivodeship and is legally responsible for its promotion. The main aim of a regional development agency is to initiate, promote and support all initiatives that helps the broadly understood progress of a region). On the other hand, Investor Assistance Centers closely work together with the Polish Information and Foreign Investment Agency (PAIiIZ), which trains and supports IAC staff.

Each unit operates within a one voivodeship, where it has its headquarter. Such a unit has a database with up to date information regarding the economy of a province. IAC have also contact information to local self-governments and so-called the institutions of business environment (e. g. entrepreneurs associations, foundations or chambers of commerce), which act on the behalf of the voivodeship development. However, the main aim of IAC is to provide a full assistance for investors, who directly contact them. 

But how IAC operate in practice? Lets consider the following example. A large company producing mobile phones is interested in locating their factory in the area of a certain voivodeship. A company's representative contacts a particular investor assistance center explaining their plans and asking for help. The center delegates its employee (or a couple of them) to assist the potential investor with getting all information about the area he is interested in (including infrastructure, its legal status, an ownership, neighboring companies - if they are any, self-government regulations and even some local customs). The center may also propose better locations, more attractive investment lands or real estate. If asked, it may help with looking for a local business partner or suggest how to efficiently promote the company's brand. Then usually the negotiations start between an investor and voivodeship authorities (if an investment is large enough even with the central government) and if everything is agreed, the investment process starts. In our case most formalities that the investor has to complete are taken care of by the center. These formalities comprise of obtaining all necessary permits, carrying out health conditions research (if an investment may affect people's health), ecological evaluation, local and central taxes relief possibilities and so on. And even when the investment is finished, the center is still in touch with our entrepreneur in case he needs some additional help. 

 

          One of the main aims of IAC is to
          assist an investor with choosing a
          proper location to place his project. 

          (A typical map of an undeveloped
          investment land with the red marked
          borders. Photo courtesy to LCOI.)

 

 

And last but not least... Take a look at http://www.lcoi.pl. LCOI stands for the LocalInvestorAssistanceCenter and is a perfect example of another interesting institution. Local Investor Assistance Centers or Local Investor Service Centers (LIAC, LISC names and abbreviation may vary as well depending on a country - however it is advisable to use a native acronym, which is "LCOI" in case of Poland) are complimentary units to IAC. They operate strictly on the local level, smaller than a whole province. The advantage of this is that they have more detailed and current information. They are also more friendly to smaller businesses that their large counterparts operating in a voivodeship. In general they perform tasks that IAC couldn't manage due to its structure and legal status.

LCOI is a project co-financed by the European Union, known as the Local Investor Assistance Centers - Eastern European Gateway, which is ran by the Association "Local Operating Group - Around the Bald Mountain", LCOI in short (its original name is Stowarzyszenie „Lokalna Grupa Działania – Wokół Łysej Góry”). The most substantial outcome of LCOI is their already mentioned website: www.lcoi.pl that provide broadly understood business communication. Talking more specific, the website help with getting current and important information about local markets and investments. It enables finding business partners and customers. Moreover, it allows entrepreneurs from Eastern Poland to present their offer (products, services and business projects). Everyone can use this website, it is free and it is designed for both the Poles and foreigners. The LCOI project covers the five eastern provinces. It rapidly develops as people find it very useful.

The aforementioned example is basically what LIAC (LCOI) are about. You don't have to be tycoon to use their services as they welcome practically everyone. A local investor assistance center is a good choice for an individual who wants to start his business but also for small and medium enterprises who want to be served with most current information. 

To sum up, Investors Assistance Centers are often the institution of the first contact when it comes to large foreign investments and to local business projects. They are quite universal and helpful. Their staff is usually better qualified than of an average (self-)government office and what is the most important in the globalizing world, they speak languages, not only their native one. Statistically, the vast majority of large investments has been assisted by IAC.