Bytom is a town with a population of 186,000, situated at the heart of the Upper-Silesian conurbation. Under the Polish law on local government, it is termed as an urban county or a municipality with county status. Boasting a 750-year-long history, it is one of the oldest towns in the region.
Bytom encompasses an area of 69.44 square kilometers and borders with the following municipalities and communes: Chorzow, Piekary Slaskie, Radzionkow, Ruda Slaska, Swietochlowice, Tarnowskie Gory, Zabrze and Zbroslawice.
Bytom's geographical situation is regarded as its great asset: it is centrally located within the Silesian Voivodship (province) and seated at an intersection of major transport routes including:
- national road DK 4 (on the European route E40) bridging east with west, and running through such towns and cities as: Zgorzelec - Wroclaw - Gliwice - Bytom - Katowice - Krakow - Rzeszow - Przemysl;
- national road DK 11 headed north-south, linking such towns and cities as: Kolobrzeg - Koszalin - Pila - Poznan - Ostrow Wielkopolski - Kluczbork - Lubliniec - Bytom;
- national road DK 79 passing through: Warszawa - Sandomierz - Krakow - Katowice - Bytom;
- national road DK 88 passing through: Strzelce Opolskie - Gliwice - Bytom;
- national road DK 94 running through: Legnica - Wroclaw - Opole - Bytom - Sosnowiec - Olkusz - Krakow.
Other transport connections are available owing to the proximity of:
- A4 motorway, which runs within Trans-European Transport Corridor No. 3 linking Western Europe to Ukraine;
- the Silesian Diametric Road Route (Drogowa Trasa Srednicowa - DTS);
- the Katowice International Airport in Pyrzowice (approx. 20 kilometers) providing regular connections to major airports throughout Europe;
- the Gliwice Canal - the most important inland river port connecting to the Oder river.
Another vital component of the town's transport system will come into play on the completion of motorway A1 (part of Trans-European Transport Corridor No.6), currently under construction, which will secure convenient access to the seaport of Gdansk.
Transport has been a primary concern of Bytom's authorities for many years. The development of the town's transport system and infrastructure has been aimed at removing transit road traffic from the town center and providing efficient transport solutions throughout the municipality area. The projected construction of Bytom's stretch of the Upper-Silesian Northern Ring Road is going to further reduce transit times through the town the time needed to pass through the town and ensure even better connections to other parts of the region.
Not so long ago, Bytom was perceived as a town of coal and steel, these two heavy industries playing an essential role in the life of the local community and representing decisive factors for its economic welfare. However, recent economic transformations made a substantial impact on the town's facet. The restructuring efforts deployed at traditional economy sectors, notably coal mining and steel industry, definitely closed this chapter in Bytom's history.In the last few years, five of Bytom's mines and two of its steelworks - major local employers - were shut down, along with a number of other operations associated with the mining industry. At present, KWK "Bobrek-Centrum" is the only functioning coal mine in the entire municipality area. The year 2004, in which Bytom celebrated the 750th anniversary of its town charter, marked a breakthrough in its economy. Unemployment started decreasing, mass redundancies ceased, more and more job openings were available. Since the beginning of 2004, the official unemployment rate has been declining steadily (at the end of May 2007 there were 10,800 persons registered as unemployed, compared with 17,800 unemployed persons at the end of December 2003).
Today the town can be said to have undergone a massive transformation. The emergence of modern commerce and a robust services sector virtually obliterated the town's former industrial character. Recent years have seen investments from leading global players in the commerce sector and the energy sector. Institutions of business environment, such as banks and insurance companies, have been growing hand in hand with the key new employers. At the same time, there has been a considerable drop in the number of entities operating in heavy industry and in the construction business. The structure of employment has changed accordingly, showing a trend toward a reduction of jobs in traditional industries accompanied by an increase of employment in services. As a consequence, the market services sector, including retail trade, car repair, repair of personal and household goods, transport services, financial services, property management, etc., has assumed a dominant position in the town's economy.
Entrepreneurship is flourishing. The number of individuals and companies involved in business activity has been increasing from year to year. Bytom's business community has established effective representation by institutions of self-government - industrial organizations and professional associations such as the Bytom Chamber of Industry and Commerce [Bytomska Izba Przemyslowo-Handlowa], a Bytom branch of Katowice's Regional Chamber of Commerce [Regionalna Izba Gospodarcza], the Employers' Association of the City of Bytom [Zwišzek Pracodawcow Miasta Bytomia], and the Guild of Crafts and Enterprise [Cech Rzemiosl Roznych i Przedsiebiorczosci].
For detailed information on the town's economy in 2006, please consult chapter 3 "The Economic Domain" (Sfera gospodarcza) of the 2006 Report on the Town of Bytom.
Bytom attempts to essentially alter its image and enhance its investment attractiveness. It makes every effort to obtain non-refundable financial support other than central government subsidies, chiefly from EU funds, to finance the development of municipal infrastructure. Owing to these funds, the town continues to expand and modernize its road transport system, as exemplified by the Upper-Silesian Northern Ring Road. With potential investors in mind, the municipality is renovating its streets (17 streets have already been refurbished due to PHARE funding), revitalizing the buildings around the Rynek (Central Square), and modernizing the technical infrastructure within Bytom Industrial Park. Furthermore, a major reconstruction of the town's water supply and sewer system is underway. Development and modernization projects provide an important stimulus for the town's economic growth, improving the competitiveness of Bytom-based businesses and strengthening the town's ability to attract further investments.
Bytom's multiple advantages have been recognized by the Danish company Braaten and Pedersen plus Partners Sp. z o.o., which is going to perform the redevelopment of Kosciuszko Square, regarded as a key development project in the municipality area. A modern multi-storey building will be erected in the square, neatly harmonized with the adjacent structures and housing a huge shopping, services and entertainment center alongside cultural establishments including a multi-screen cinema. It is estimated that, on completion, the center will create 850 permanent jobs.
Vacant lots and buildings throughout the town are available to potential investors. The wide range of real property on offer includes land and structures of diverse sizes and uses. Investors will enjoy ample opportunities to pursue their development projects on plots situated in and outside the town center, suited for a variety of purposes - from manufacturing, shopping and service facilities to residential buildings. Additional investment opportunities can be found in post-industrial areas which were abandoned as a result of the restructuring processes affecting traditional industries. Bytom's authorities are strongly committed to revitalization and redevelopment, hoping to attract new investments and create new jobs.
Bytom Industrial Park represents one of the approaches to preparing post-industrial areas for redevelopment. The project primarily aims to boost enterprise and create favorable conditions for business development, in this way contributing to the reduction of unemployment and the creation of new jobs. The project was initiated in a site situated at Siemianowicka street (national road no. 94) and, at its first stage, consisted in the construction of 4 blocks totaling around 10,000 square meters of production and warehousing space, with complete infrastructure and access roads. This modern and conveniently located complex will provide small and medium-sized businesses with industrial space and integrated facilities rising to European standards.
Attention should also be brought to the improving housing conditions. The town seeks to better accommodate its citizenry and encourage new settlement through e.g. the renovation and modernization of existing buildings as well as through the development of new residential quarters.
The town's transient economy demands educated workforce, therefore the authorities place emphasis on education, striving to ensure that the children across the municipality area can select among schools of all types and levels. The objective is to make it possible for Bytom's youth to earn complete and relevant education without the need to leave their home town. Bytom has been successful in promoting the expansion of higher education. Today the municipality hosts departments of the Silesian University of Technology (Politechnika Slaska) and the Medical University of Silesia (Slaska Akademia Medyczna). Furthermore, Bytom is the seat of detached faculties of the Warsaw-based Polish-Japanese Institute of Information Technology (Polsko-Japonska Wyzsza Szkola Technik Komputerowych) and the Academy of Humanities and Economics in Lodz (Wyższa Szkola Humanistyczno-Ekonomiczna w Lodzi). The local Silesian College of Economics and Administration (Wyzsza Szkola Ekonomii i Administracji) increases enrolment every year, while the Teacher Training College (Kolegium Nauczycielskie) educates prospective teachers. The upcoming academic year is expected to bring the opening of a detached faculty of Krakow's Ludwik Solski Academy for the Dramatic Arts (Panstwowa Wyzsza Szkoła Teatralna im. Ludwika Solskiego) and the launch of a local branch of the Academy of Fine Arts in Katowice (Akademia Sztuk Pieknych w Katowicach). Higher education institutions do not only extend the local career choices but also reinforce the town's position as a regional academic center.
However, advantageous geographical situation, convenient transport connections, quality municipal services, dynamic urban development and qualified workforce would not suffice. Besides initiatives directed at stimulating economic growth, the town puts a high priority on enlarging the scope for leisure activities. Bytom boasts a well developed social infrastructure with renowned cultural institutions as well as tourist highlights and a host of sporting and recreational facilities. The Silesian Opera (Opera Slaska), the Silesian Dance Theater (Slaski Teatr Tanca), the Museum of Upper Silesia (Muzeum Gornoslaskie), and the Bytom Culture Center (Bytomskie Centrum Kultury) will guarantee first-class entertainment and artistic experience. Lovers of painting, graphics, photography, utilitarian and industrial art will appreciate the town's many galleries including the "Kronika" Modern Art Gallery (Galeria Sztuki Wspolczesnej "Kronika").
Sport and recreation facilities include playing fields, pitches, playgrounds, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts, an ice rink, and the municipal stadium occupied by the town's largest sport club Polonia. Bytom's sportsmen and sportswomen are among its best ambassadors, making the name of Bytom heard across continents. Many of them represented Poland in international competitions, including world championships and Olympic Games, some winning the highest awards. Every year, an array of regional, national and international culture and sport events are held in Bytom.
There are a lot of tourist attractions to explore throughout Bytom. Exciting opportunities for active rest are provided by the first all-year sport-and-recreation center in Silesia called DOLOMITY - SPORTOWA DOLINA (Dolomites - Sports Valley), arranged within a former dolomite mining area. The center offers ski tracks with lifts, sport equipment rental, a skiing and snowboarding school, quad tracks, accommodation and board, a shopping and services area, and 20 kilometers of cycling routes.
Few people realize that as much as 20% of Bytom's area is forested. Some of this land abounds in greenery and unique natural wealth. The wildlife and landscape complex "Zabie Doly" (Frog Pits), the forest reserve "Segiet", the geological site of the "Blachowka" dolomite mining area, and the town's strolling and rest parks are considered natural gems.
Undoubtedly, a trip by narrow-gauge railway, which is the oldest operational railway of this sort in the whole world, stands out among the tourist attractions of the region. Stops have been carefully planned to ensure convenient access to other places of interest, such as Dolomity - Sportowa Dolina, the Ancient Mine of Silver-bearing Ores, the "Black Trout" Underground Gallery (Sztolnia Czarnego Pstrąga), and the Chechlo-Naklo Lake. The municipality's continued efforts have given the railway a chance of revival not only as an element of the town's historical heritage but also as a practical all-year means of transport that could be used by Bytom and the neighboring municipalities.
Bytom invites for a walk around the historical center. It is worthwhile to look at the newly renovated Central Square (Rynek) and the surrounding tenement halls, to visit the Gorywodas' Gothic Cellars (Piwnice Gorywodow), the monumental churches, the historical buildings of the Post Office, the Court, the Music School, or the remnants of the neo-Gothic Thiele-Winckler castle. Bytom has one of the country's largest concentrations of private and public buildings in the Art Nouveau style whose rich ornamentation will catch every eye. Tourists should not also miss the urban complex dating from the turn of the 19th century situated between Dworcowa street, the Rynek (Central Square) and the Kosciuszki square.
The town's future prospects relate to the development of high technologies, modern commerce and services. This strategy accounts for Bytom's open, friendly attitude toward potential investors and its dedication to improving the conditions for all kinds of business endeavors. The town seeks to establish itself as a business leader and a major center of education and culture.
Bytom encourages entrepreneurs to set up their businesses in the town. The authorities promise to promptly provide them with any information they require, and assure them of fair treatment and partnership. Bytom welcomes everyone wishing to implement their business ideas within the municipality area.