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Oknoplast sees Europe' s window of opportunity

By CNN Wire staff
updated 1:51 PM EST, Thu March 7, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Poland has been a success story amongst the transition economies, proving resilient to recession
  • Oknoplast's annual turnover topped $120 million last year but exports have come under pressure
  • The EU Flag flying outside the factory reflects Placek's ambitious outlook for the business

(CNN) -- At Oknoplast's production site outside Krakow, Poland, windows of all shapes and sizes are stacked up ready for delivery -- and they all have homes to go to.

The family-run business has been churning out its bespoke windows for nearly 20 years. Now, 45,000 a month are sliding off the production line, most of them destined for export locations across Europe.

Read more: Auto industry revs up recovery on Spain

"Last year was the first year when most of our production went to export", Oknoplast President Mikolaj Placek told CNN.

For Placek, Poland's entry into the European Union in 2004 provided an opportunity to expand beyond his home market, but it's a delicate financial balancing act.

"We export only to EU countries. The export is profitable when you export up to a maximum of 2,000 to 2,500 kilometers from the factory," he explained.

Read more: Ebro CEO: Strong euro is 'major concern'

So, Placek targeted Italy for his expansion plans -- and it's now the company's biggest market outside of Poland.

Poland has been a success story amongst the transition economies, proving resilient to the cold winds of recession which have swept across Europe. It's maintained growth, but is now slowing down.

"Naturally I'm worried," Placek told CNN. "But the key is to be better than our competitors. We have to work harder, lower our costs and be more competitive in service and flexibility."

Read more: Henkel: Reaping rewards of its revamp

While the recipe is not new, the implementation is vital if Poland's manufacturing sector is to thrive.

"We can use the advantage that our labor costs are lower than in Western Europe" Placeck said. "Poland is becoming one of the biggest country's for production that is labor intensive," he added.

Oknoplast's annual turnover topped $120 million last year, but, with unemployment rising and growth in Europe and Poland slowing down, exports are coming under pressure.

Despite that Placek is optimistic, because he's been here before. "When the crisis hit for the first time in 2008 I took market share; -- this is our policy -- to take market share from our competitors," he said. "We are very aggressive with our plans to take over our competitors...only in this way can we develop faster."

Placek is confident his strategy will compensate for any slowdown in the domestic market, which still accounts for 45% of Oknoplast's sales.

The EU Flag flying outside the factory reflects Placek's ambitious outlook for the business. "We want to be perceived as a European company, not as a local Polish one" he declared proudly.

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