Lodz Mayor Jerzy Kropiwnicki, who is in Israel at the head of a trade delegation from his city, skipped a lunchtime meeting on Tuesday with the Jerusalem Chamber of Commerce. He had good reason. Kropiwnicki had gone to Tel Aviv to meet with Civil Aviation Authority representatives to discuss the possibility of direct flights between Lodz and Tel Aviv.
However, his deputy, Karol Chadzynski and members of the delegation met with Jerusalem business people to discuss import-export, joint ventures and investment in the fields of security systems, real estate, construction, furniture, foodstuffs, wine, flora, road safety, plastics, industrial cleaning, home cleaning systems, communications, clothing and then some.
Chamber President Rami Mandel, who welcomed the delegation, noted that Israeli companies are increasingly doing business in Poland and singled out SuperPharm and Mei Eden as prime examples.
Mandel, who is the managing director of the Jerusalem Co-Op chain of supermarkets, said his own company was looking into the possibility of setting up a Co-Op chain in Poland.
Chadzynski spoke briefly of pre-war Lodz when the city, which is the second largest in Poland, was made up of Poles, Jews, Germans and Russians, with Jewish demography almost on a par with Polish.
Jews were leading industrialists and bankers and in many cases were extremely affluent with palatial homes, he said, citing 19th century industrialist Israel Poznanski, whose baroque style palace now houses the Lodz History Museum.
Lodz was known as a textile city, and was generally referred to as the Manchester of Poland, Chadzynski said.
Competition from Asia forced many of the textile plants into bankruptcy, but some of the tradition remains.
In recent years, he said, Lodz has developed into a dynamic and progressive city that has been given a positive rating by Standard & Poor's, while global companies such as Dell, Bosch, Gillette, Wrangler, Phillips and others have set up branches and distribution centers in Lodz where labor is efficient, well trained and not expensive.
The problem, he said, is that foreign investment notwithstanding, Lodz has a high rate of unemployment and is losing many well qualified young men and women who go to England to find work.
"We would like to keep them in Lodz," said Chadzynski, "but we need more businesses to open up in Lodz for that to happen."
Dell, which signed a contract with the city last week, has guaranteed to create 3,000 new jobs initially.
Members of the Lodz delegation networked with Jerusalem counterparts and continued negotiation at a formal dinner in the evening.
On Wednesday, they are scheduled to meet with Tel Aviv business people.