ECONOMY

Athens trails list of desirable business locations

The successful staging of the Olympic Games last summer and the considerable upgrading of infrastructures do not seem to have impressed high-level staff in European companies as Athens has slipped to the last spot in the top 30 of European business centers, according to the annual survey by consultancy firm Cushman & Wakefield. Athens was 29th last year. Out of 501 respondents, 68 percent said that the hosting of major sports, cultural or political events does not influence their planning at all, regarding where they will house their company and its branches, although they do admit that such events help raise a city’s profile. Instead, the main factors determining where each company will expand are related to the ease of accessing significant markets, the supply of expert human resources, the quality of telecommunications and the transport infrastructures. On a secondary level there are labor and installation costs and the quality of life a city can offer. London has, for yet another year, maintained the title of top European business center, for four reasons: It is considered the best choice for accessing international markets; and for the quality of its work force, telecommunications and transport infrastructure. Warsaw leads in the labor cost factor, Dublin stands out for the incentives the Irish government provides for attracting enterprises, Paris shines thanks to its transport network and Barcelona tops the quality-of-life factor. In all these categories Athens lies among the bottom five or six. Can the Greek capital’s position improve in the future? The answer is probably no. The eastward trend toward the new EU member states and Russia seems particularly strong in favor of Warsaw, Prague, Budapest, Moscow and even Bucharest. They receive the lion’s share mainly in the sectors of production and assembly lines, though less in the service sector. What Athens can do is improve its image abroad, as there is a significant deficit in this domain. Athens has improved considerably as a city, but this has to be advertised. The top city in the image-promotion category is Barcelona, and the fact that this is the first time since 1990, when the survey started, that the Spanish city has been in this category’s top five speaks volumes. It is followed this year by Prague, Madrid and Budapest, while Athens stands 15th.