In the strategic center of Ukraine, the industrial heartland of Dnipropetrovsk has experienced a transformation in the past two decades. The region’s factories and engineers now look firmly westward under a business-savvy administration that is helping industry modernize and harness inward investment
Until the 1990s, Dnipro was designated a ‘closed city’ for security reasons as a center of the Soviet rocket industry. Today, it is still home to the aerospace sector – the state-owned company Yuzhmash recently announced plans to develop Hyperloop technology for ultra-fast transport – but both the region of Dnipropetrovsk and its capital city Dnipro are very much open to the influences of the outside world.
Dnipro is both an intriguing and inviting city dotted with cafés and built along the broad Dnieper River. Traditional Ukrainian architecture now rubs shoulders with skyscrapers as post-Soviet economic growth has brought new life to Dnipro’s real estate and business scene. The Menorah Center is an eye-catching curiosity, designed by the local Jewish community to combine spirituality, culture and business in one complex topped by a stepped skyscraper hotel.
Like Ukraine itself, the country’s leading industrial region has had to reconfigure its production and market strategy as the nation has pivoted to the West. Transformation has been the route to success for companies in heavy industry, such as Interpipe, which is among the world’s top 10 producers of seamless pipes thanks to investment of $1 billion to modernize its production.
“Some companies that were highly dependent on the Russian or post-Soviet markets didn’t manage to adapt to new reality. Within four years we’ve completely diversified,” said Interpipe CEO Fadi Hraibi.
Dnipropetrovsk also boasts a startup culture that has produced overnight giants, such as Biosphere Corporation, led by owner Andriy Zdesenko, which now sells a million products a day in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs) sector.
Dnipropetrovsk is central to Ukraine in every sense, from its geographical location around the banks of the Dnieper River, the country’s key navigable waterway, to being the largest contributor to the state budget and leading the way in exports and FDI.
“The region is the financial, industrial and geographical center of Ukraine. It possesses high-quality labor resources and an ideal location in terms of logistics and interregional infrastructure,” said Vitalii Zhmurenko, president of the Dnipropetrovsk Chamber of Commerce and Industry, adding that there remains untapped potential in the region’s iron and manganese deposits and two million hectares of Ukraine’s famously fertile black soil.
Local authorities are looking for more investment to accelerate progress and boost critical infrastructure. Ukraine’s government recently invited foreign investors to participate in the construction of a hub airport between the cities of Dnipro and Zaporizhia, due to be ready by 2021.