Exiting the room of lost steps

Exiting the room of lost steps

We came to Iasi, under the ”empire” of an apparent common news that ”the town has the most modern airport tarmac”. So, what? I tarmac is just a tarmac, is said to myself... until I met Ionut Zlate, from Arhipelago, then with Dan Zaharia from Iulius Group, with Daniel Buleu from Embarcadero, with Iulian Margalagiu from Ceramica-Brikston, and then with others and others of locals. I found out that there is an on-line petition and even a site dedicated named just like that ”Iesenii vor aeroport” (The people from Iasi want an airport), and ”Aeroport international la Iasi (International airport in Iasi” was the third point of business man manifest towards new authorities, at the elections from 2012. ”Because Iasi needs a quick and direct connection to Europe. Because tens of thousands of people work abroad”, summarizes the manifest. That’s how I discovered that the tarmac from Iasi is more than a concrete lane, where now can land/take-off Airbus’ and large Boeings. In a town where thick walls tell the history, this long, solid airfield of 2.4 km must speak about the present time, but especially about the near future (for at least 24 years?). We skip the small service conflicts, as a local newspaper is saying, Roznovanu Palace – meaning the City Hall – and the County Council, a conflict that almost jeopardised the European funds for the return of the EUR 57 million paid from the country budget for a new tarmac. It is important that the tarmac exists, and, as a local newspaper says, miracle, it was launched sooner!

And now, in Iasi, when it comes to the tarmac, any discussion suddenly takes off differently.


”We are here somehow isolated from the West, we don’t have quick ways to connect with Ardeal and then Europe. But, with an international airport, there is no need to explain to our partners how to get to Iasi and what Iasi is”, summarizes Iulian Margalagiu, the General Manager of Ceramica Iasi, the frustrations and hopes of the businessmen here.

Probably the airport made the geography easier in the negotiation between the Advent International Funds and ADM Capital through which the first sold the package of 85% of Ceramika shares, owning in 2007. But when an investment fund continues to put its money on you, it is clear that you can talk about the future. Lately, the old factory from Iasi entered the market with a new brand of products, Brikston, which lead it to the second place in the brick market in Romania, with an active presence also in the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. And this, without being in the area of cheap products, but medium to high – as states the Manager Mangalagiu, to emphasize the quality of products made here.

It is one of the few reinventing cases of what the industrial history of Iasi was once.

We are talking about transition ordeal suffered by all former big industrial centres in the country, but in Iasi, the agony seemed longer, being hard to find the missing thing. Meanwhile others didn’t wait. It is true that Iasi doesn’t have the unique position of Timisoara, and lacks the west magnet of Cluj, just to mention the only towns that can be considered at the same level as Iasi. Iasi has to fight right now, for example, with Bacău to reach the status of the biggest airport in Moldavia.

Fortunately, there is a change of status around Iasi.


For people who haven’t come here for long, the change is even spectacular. We are talking about new ...horizons, especially after the citadels of service industry have risen, meaning the concrete and glass towers, those so familiar for new towns.

It is not clear who came first – investors who needed programmers and call-centres operators or office area developers?

It is known that ”the new industry of Iasi is now called IT and outsourcing. At this chapter, we are more entrepreneurial than Cluj, where big multinational groups are located”, says Marius Alexa, the founder of web islands Archipelago, as he likes to call his network of business portals and on line promotion, from finantare.ro, up to cariere.ro, from amnevoiede.ro, up to calendarortodox.ro. also he initiated a series of civic implication platforms, as well as investiniasi.ro or bahlui.ro. The archipelago of Marius Alexa is a small part of the new IT&C geography of the town, born from true tectonic movements, from BPO ( business process operation), to KPO (knowledge process operation), from ITO ( information technology process) to R&D (research and development). As signs of this geography, but also of the cooperation needs, local partnership, in Iasi there is an IT&C industry cluster (Euronest), but also a new-media one (ICONIC).





In interaction with service development comes also the increase in the real estate sector, where gathered around 45 blocks and smaller blocks of offices around the city."A third of the areas is class A, and rents remain very attractive for tenants, between EUR 12-14 /sqm/months, a competitive level in the area of secondary towns in Eastern Europe”, says Dan Zaharia, renting consultant for office buildings in Iaşi and Cluj Napoca, with over 15 years of experience in retail and development, former leasing manager for office buildings of Iulius Grup. Also was launched a lifestyle centre, Palas, in the area of the Cultural palace, a complex of commercial areas, hotels, class A office, underground parking of approximately 2,500 spaces and a perimeter of entertainment, all in a built surface of over 320,000 sqm. An investment of Iulian Dascălu through his Iulius group, Palas is considered to be the biggest private investment in Moldavia so far, of over EUR 265 million.


Through Iulian Dascălu, Iasi had the second mall in the country, after Bucharest, from 2000. It was maybe the only chapter in which Iasi was in a hurry and didn’t miss. Through Dascălu, Iasi revolutionised the mall in the dynamic cities of Timisoara and Cluj-Napoca, and they didn’t wait with the response, sending investors. When auto and software developers didn’t have enough development area in big university centres in the West (mainly, a harder way to find qualified people at attractive prices) they came to discover Iasi, with its university tradition, humanist and technical (the first form of technical education organization was accomplished by Gheorghe Asachi over 200 years ago) plus his labour offer ”by offer”.

”First of all, they came for this pipeline Iasi has”, as Dan Zaharia and Marius Alexa tell me. We are talking about a pipe, but not the one envisioned by Fortus (the former Heavy machinery factory, now bankrupt, requesting the help of the state, because it can provide equipment for petrol and underwater mining exploitation or for main transportation of energetic fluids, such as South Stream and Siberia – Pacific pipes)... and not about the pipes that are still produced at Metalurgica Mittal. But about one that brings to Iasi the labour force from all Moldavia, even from beyond the Prut (Chisină is just a two hours drive away).

That’s how auto names like Delphi, Continental, Leoni, Lear, appeared and in the IT-ousourcing area, names like, Amazon, Endava, Ness, Centric, Movial, Bentley Systems, Travel Tech, EBS, AROBS, Teamnet, XEROX, Infineon Technologies, Pentalog...

Therefore a good news for the batches of almost 600 IT people annually delivered by faculties in Iasi, plus hundreds of economists and foreign language graduates – there are jobs, good wages (especially if you know Dutch – the local studies show that exotic languages speakers enjoy famous salaries even from the entry-level). There are not that few cases of specialists who accepted to relocate even coming from Bucharest, enjoying a quieter town here, but at the same standard of city.


Form the realist point of view, an investor presented mainly to streamline costs is not happy of   any increase not being compensated  also by productivity. ”We haven’t reached that point yet, but it already starts to feel like a local struggle for good employees. Or that increase of costs for an employer must be also regarded in a regional context, even global – here there must be enough value in order not the move the investment in other areas”, draws attention Daniel Buleu, Software Development Manager and Romanian manager of the American Company Embarcadero Technologies, in the same time vice-president of the software and service (ANIS) patronship.

He also talks about the reverse of a measure destined to help the industry – the new state help scheme through which almost 1,500 middle companies should create 30,000 jobs in the following seven years. ”It shall be an extraordinary pressure on the labour market”, says the ANIS Vice-president continuing to have a realist view over the situation – not all graduates are so well prepared to be taken over with opened arms by the employers. A quality drop was felt especially after faculties dropped the admission examination. (to see, still, that last month, state universities in Iasi hurried to announce that they won’t organize colleges for high school graduators without the High School Examination)

Again, a call-up is needed for tomorrow. Embarcadero and Continental already have special courses this year at the Technical University. It is expected also that other employers will take this way. 

The solution is collaboration, ”education must open doors and allow companies to suggest and help the change of educational programs, according to the expectations of the business environment”, says Dan Berinde, former management teacher at the Technical University, currently manager for the Eastern Europe in LIM (Leadership and International Management).

Obviously, this isn’t a simple exercise. ”We proposed a high level high school to introduce certain extracurricular activities, to support students in learning the team spirit, participating to team work, a more efficient communication, project management. It was the only time when we had an honest response from a teacher – „I know that we are the residents of change, the professors, not the students””, shows Dan Berinde.

The resistance to change is an understanding process, until one point, and it mostly comes with high costs. The one who was once the professor of the Romanian towns, Iasi learned on its own that it is not enough to wait, but to provoke things you want.

In the manifest from Bahlui.ro, at point four (after the airport) we find the East-West Highway. There is also a site, Moldovavreaautostradă.ro, a apolitical civic campaign that for the moment only states the hypothesis that ” Târgu-Mures- Iasi-Ungheni Highway becomes an attractive alternative for the transit traffic that will develop between European corridors IV and IX”. Realistically speaking, it is a 100 times longer challenge than the new airport tarmac. Of course, a challenge only at this point. Until the people from Iasi will truly find a response to the question What is Iasi missing?


  Articol scris de Anca Doicin, redactor Sef Business Days Magazine

 Face parte din generaţia de jurnalişti care îşi găsea subiectele pe  teren. De altfel, nici acum, Anca spune că nu reuşeşte să scrie      un articol din birou, cu o singură sursă. Are peste 18 ani de    experienţă de presă, preponderent în media de business, dar şi legal. A făcut şi presă de cotidian – Bursă, şi săptămânal – Capital, de revista – Money Express, dar şi on-line – Avocatură.com. În perioada în care Anca a coordonat această publicaţie, a dezvoltat şi coordonat o echipa de 13 jurnalişti din ţară, Avocatură.com fiind singură ce reuşea să treacă de graniţele Capitalei. A fost implicată în proiecte, ce, la timpul lor, erau considerate inovative, cum au fost Capital Top 300 sau Capital Top 100 companii. La finele anului trecut, a fost coordonatorul echipei ce a realizat şi publicat primul număr în limba română al revistei Intelligent Life – o franciză aparţinând grupului The Economist. Nu crede în puterea inspiraţională a motto-urilor, ci în puterea comunicării.


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