Large world-renowned companies have opened their branches and factories in Novi Sad, and with an unemployment rate of 6.5%, which has never been this low in Novi Sad, the city has become a real IT hub.
In his interview for the Invest in Vojvodina edition, Novi Sad Mayor, Miloš Vučević, talks about what kind of city Novi Sad has become and the vision of what the city should be like. Among other things, the mayor pointed out: “One of the indicators that Novi Sad is not lagging behind the rest of the world is certainly the level of development of its IT industry. The city is becoming an IT hub. In addition to large infrastructure projects, such as the construction of Covid hospital on Mišeluk, we are continuing to invest in education, social and health care, construction of bicycle paths, new parks and green areas and development of the Danube’s shore.“
What investment and infrastructure projects will the City of Novi Sad implement in 2021?
This year’s city budget is also development-oriented, with a very pronounced social component, and when planning investments, we made sure that all parts of the city should be developed evenly. One of the biggest investment projects this year is the construction of the Covid hospital on Mišeluk, a project of great importance both for Novi Sad and the entire Vojvodina. The Novi Sad authorities allocated 250 million dinars for the construction of traffic areas with accompanying infrastructure in order to equip the hospital’s location.
“As for the value in terms of Exit promoting our country, that cannot be measured”
We are continuing to build apartments for the state security forces and refugees, as well as equipping the North 4, North 2 and Kać work zones. The construction of the bridge over the Danube, which is an extension of Europe Boulevard, is a project of national importance. We have drafted the General Project documentation and a feasibility study. In this year’s budget, we have also allocated funds for the drafting of technical documentation for the construction of a new bridge on the pillars of the former Franz Josef Bridge, the Santandrejski Bridge over the DTD canal, and the regular maintenance of the Sloboda Bridge. Novi Sad has also joined the Clean Serbia programme and secured funds for the construction of the sewerage grid and wastewater treatment plants under the Programme’s auspices. We are now resolving decades-old problems and preparing for the future because contemporary infrastructure must follow suit of such an intensive city development.
When are the works in the city centre going to be completed, and how much will they cost? What else does the city government plan to do this year?
The works are carried out in several phases and I follow the progress every day. This is probably the best-organized construction site in the city because the works have never stopped for a moment. The section from the Theatre Square and the Church of the Assumption to the City Hall will have been completed by November 25th. The works on the reconstruction of the facade and decorative lighting on the Serbian National Theatre (SNP) are financed by the Vojvodinian government, while the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of the City of Novi Sad has provided funds for the works on the ground floor and installation of the fence around the Church of the Assumption. The total value of this investment is 378 million dinars. The plan is to plant 25 new trees and 708 pieces of shrubs, and out of a total area that is currently being worked on, which spans 8,110 square metres, a third will be covered in greenery, i.e. 2,714 square metres. The Memorial Ribbon will be a special feature here and will be reminiscent of a small Jewish street, which existed here until the 1970s. The Novi Sad centre will look phenomenally good once the works are finished.
What is the situation with Novi Sad’s economy today? What are the key investors in the city and which industries do they come from?
When we won the election in Novi Sad in 2012, the city’s investment map was almost bare because no factory had been built in the city in the previous 40 years. From 2012 to date, we have had 29 investments in Novi Sad, of a total value of around 370 million euros, which created at least 11,500 new jobs. This does not include new workers that will be employed by Nidec and Continental, i.e. another 1,000 new jobs in one year.
People are most familiar with large multinational companies, whose arrival in Novi Sad created a real boom because all the countries in the region fought to have these countries invest in them. I am referring to Lear, Aptiv, Barry Callebaut, the Continental Research and Development Centre and 3Lateral, to mention some of them. Today, Novi Sad has the lowest ever unemployment rate of 6.5%. During the Serbian Progressive Party’s last two terms in the office, over 27,000 people found employment in the city. We expect even better results in the coming period, i.e. by the end of our third term.
What is Novi Sad’s potential to become an IT and innovation hub for attracting foreign companies?
The fact is that we have been had an expansion of information and communication technologies for years here, which has become one of the basic directions of economic development in Novi Sad. The city is today rightly called the Silicon Valley in this part of Europe. We have prestigious scientific research centres such as BioSense, the Science and Technology Park and the Artificial Intelligence Centre. This is our trump card that attracts large global companies to open research and development centres here.
“The whole IT sector, that is, the whole digital concept in the city is the new pillar of Novi Sad’s development”
Large world-famous companies such as Continental, Nidek and 3Lateral have opened their branches and factories in Novi Sad and thus created new jobs for the citizens of Novi Sad and the surrounding areas. Vega IT bought the premises of the former Radnički University and I expect that the reconstruction of this building will start in 2022. As far as high-rise buildings are concerned, this one will, indisputably, become the new landmark of Novi Sad. Also, 3Lateral, which bought the site at 32, Radnička Street, which used to belong to the now-bankrupt Albus factory, is building a new IT hub there. 3Lateral operates under Epic Games from the USA, a giant in that software industry. These are fantastic projects and new pillars of development of Novi Sad, and in general, the whole IT sector, that is, the whole digital concept in the city.
What is required of Novi Sad in terms of being declared the 2019 European Youth Capital and 2021 European Capital of Culture? How important are these titles for the city’s development?
Those two titles have already become an integral part of the city’s image, and I see that the people of Novi Sad are now completely familiar with them. In terms of visible effects, and thanks to these titles, our youth policies have been redefined, that is, we are working on modernizing and decentralizing cultural activities. Also thanks to these titles, we are building creative and cultural youth centres. A Novi Sad quarter, popularly called Chinatown, has been transformed into a creative district and we also have the Svilara Culture Station. As part of a series of European Capital of Culture programmes, we will have 46 ‘urban pockets’ throughout the city.
How important is that Exit Festival takes place in Novi Sad? How significant is this festival for tourism development?
We have demonstrated that, in an epidemiologically very unstable environment, we were completely capable of organizing the festival and make close to 40,000 festival-goers feel safe. Exit was safer health-wise than any mass celebration or wedding in Serbia. This year, in addition to celebrating its 20th anniversary, Exit symbolizes a return to normal life after the coronavirus pandemic. Everything finally came alive, but with precaution.
I would like all people, especially youth, to finally understand that vaccination is the “entry ticket” to a normal life, the one we were used to living before the coronavirus outbreak. The festival’s importance both for our tourism and Serbia’s overall image is immeasurable. Last year, millions of people worldwide were able to see fantastic new shots of the Petrovaradin Fortress and Novi Sad, as well as entire Serbia, thanks to Exit’s LifeStream. Since its founding, the Exit Festival has generated over 200 million euros for domestic tourism and we expect the festival to generate another 200 million by 2030. As for the value in terms of Exit promoting our country, that cannot be measured.
Could you please list the most important parts of the cultural heritage of Novi Sad? What would top your list?
It is difficult to make such a list, but Matica Srpska is still our oldest literary, cultural and scientific institution. Since it was moved from the Tekelijanum in Pest to the Novi Sad Platoneum in 1864, Novi Sad has been known as the Serbian Athens ever since. The city got that name because it was considered that the wisest and most educated people gathered around Matica Srpska. Matica has become a symbol of civil society, culture, enlightenment and charity. It is both Novi Sad’s symbol and support.
In which way will Novi Sad ‘pay back’ Djordje Balašević for everything he did for the city?
The Balašević family will make a final decision about that. We will find a locality that will be named after him, although every part of this city belongs to him. Various ideas and initiatives have been circulating, but we will not change the names of the streets he sang or wrote about, because Djordje would certainly not want that. He is the epitome of Novi Sad’s spirit which is so special and fascinating. Because of him, we love Novi Sad and always come back to it. The legendary Djordje Balašević will live forever in every corner of his beloved city