Regional small businesess defy economic crisis


Enterpreneurship in small businesses has flourished in some parts of the region.

By Drazen Remikovic for Southeast European Times in Sarajevo -- 10/09/12


"Professional staff and modern technology are very important to succeed in the market today," one business owner told SETimes. [Drazen Remikovic/SETimes]

In the small town of Gorazde in eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), workers in a modest factory are bucking the odds.

The plant, Bekto Preciza, was founded in 2005 with just 10 employees. Now it employs more than 350 and recently signed a contract with the German automaker Porsche to become the first firm outside Germany to make parts for the luxury automotive line since it was founded in 1931.

Manufacturing everything from automotive parts to luxury trailers to boots, examples of flourishing small- and medium-sized enterprises are blossoming in the Balkans.

Many experts believe that such companies are the best solution to the economic crisis that has gripped many economies, crippling large businesses and putting thousands out of work at a time.

"We need to understand that our factories, which employed 10,000 people, are gone," Bosko Tomic, a member of Parliamentary Commission for Economic Reform and Development of BiH, told SETimes.

"The future of development is in small and medium enterprises. We deal with politics too much. The focus of politicians should be the economy because there is a way out of the crisis," he said. "We need to provide favorable conditions for business, abolish customs and administrative barriers, weaken import lobbies, help the local economy."

Bekto Preciza has contracts BMW, Mercedes, Toyota and Lamborghini, as well as the new contract with Porsche. More than 90 percent of its products are exported.

"Professional staff and modern technology are very important to succeed in the market today," Sanja Muhic, the head of purchasing and sales at Bekto Preciza, told SETimes. "Additionally, the product must be of high quality, the price must be affordable and the deadline for making the product must be respected. This is the recipe of success with which the customer will be satisfied."

In Donji Miholjac, a small town in northern Croatia, a firm called Europlast was launched seven years ago. Today it exports its products to the United Arab Emirates.


Europlast, located in Donji Miholjac, Croatia, exports its trailers to the UAE. [Drazen Remikovic/SETimes]

"In addition to the production of trucks and parts, my firm also produces luxury horse trailers. These are luxury trailers that are fully equipped for the transportation of horses, people usually buying them for police and race horses. These are the most expensive trailers in Europe. Besides the UAE , we export them to Finland, Switzerland, Holland and Germany," Europlast owner Predrag Banda told SETimes .

He said that business expands year after year. The company currently has about 40 employees, but Banda estimates that by the end of the year he will need to hire another 10 people.

Governments in the region, however, give little to no assistance to the businesses.

Svetlana Cenic, former RS finance minister, said that there are still huge barriers for doing business and production in BiH and in the Balkans.

"Authorities are probably thinking if there are three companies that are successful, their job here is done. There are still enormous administrative barriers that hinder good business. The influence of politics is unquestionable because it is about money," Cenic told SETimes.

Bema, a small shoe factory in Banja Luka, became famous two years ago after it donated boots to Chilean miners who were trapped underground for almost three months. The company, which now employs more than 750 workers in its two plants, one in Banja Luka and one in Mrkonjic Grad, exports more than 5 million euros in products.

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About nine months ago, a factory that manufactures appliances to destruct medical waste opened inthe municipality of Knic in central Serbia. The factory, Sharps Terminator, is the only one of its kind.

Company representatives said that the apparatus is produced by Serbian and American engineers, and annual exports from the plant will be around 93 million euros.

Workers in successfully factories say that they feel more security for their future. Bema employee Draga Lidovic, 43, said that the working conditions are good and wages are never late.

"When you have a secure income, then you have the will and desire to work. I think that's a recipe for success. I know many people who didn't recieve their salaries for years and go to work every day," Lidovic told SETimes.

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