Businesses particularly in the EU periphery have been seriously affected by the globalization of the economy in the last 20 years, as the global retail has concentrated in a small number of multinational chains and local markets were penetrated by international enterprises. As a consequence, local businesses lost significant market shares, entire supply chains collapsed and the local productive and economic fabric was disrupted. Especially in remote and least competitive areas, as the 2 areas participating in MarCh (Thrace area in GR and Kardzhali District in BG), the specific evolvement had a particular excess. Closure of businesses, low incomes, high unemployment rates, migration of skilled workforce and economic crisis were the results from this phenomenon.
On the other hand it is comforting that multinational chains deploy different strategies in their growth models, some emphasizing on cheap production terms, others on effective market response etc., thus leaving space to other businesses to develop their own concepts for growth.
For the local enterprises, considering that they provide a number of comparative advantages, as e.g. long presence in the area, proximity and trustful relations to customers, along with a series of further attributes (product quality, low pricing etc.), the latter means to locate their strengths and weaknesses and design appropriate competitive strategies. To doing so, however, they depend on external support, as endogenous obstacles (small unit size, lacking knowledge, shortages in skills and resources, innovation absence etc.) prevent them from acting out of the box. In this context the role of the collective business bodies becomes crucial. Analyzing the advantages of their areas they can shape visions for them and mobilize the local business communities to their realization. Locating strengths and weaknesses they can design strategies and guide their members to applying them. Addressing the entirety of the business community they can provide it with assistance and guidance to implementing the strategies. Besides they are able to establish horizontal schemes to facilitating the business operation and to covering shortages.
The 6th Call within the Interreg V Greece – Bulgaria Cooperation Programme is simply a trigger for the project PBs to transfer common visions and methodologies to practice, notably in some of the most suffering areas of their countries and in a Cross Border approach.
To meeting above shortages MarCh designs local growth strategies and visions, locates strengths and weaknesses at the local business communities and builds up Business Support Structures (BuSSes) in the 2 application areas. For a pilot sector, the agro-food, a bundle of activities (strengths – weaknesses’ diagnoses, business plans for existing businesses and start-ups, coaching and counselling along with training seminars) aims at upgrading business performance and competitiveness, while a series of tools (an e-market platform, a digital data base with experienced professionals, an e-labor market platform) improve the business environment in the 2 areas and facilitate entrepreneurship.
At a first stage MarCh addresses the local business communities in the 2 project areas emphasizing on new enterprises and start-ups in the agro food sector. However the entire business community will benefit from the project as its results will be disseminated and replicated to the other sectors. Furthermore the experience from MarCh will be capitalized by the national PBs (PB2/KAELE (ESEE – GR) and PB3/ BICA – BG) and transferred to other areas in the participating countries.
The project is being carried out by a partnership of 5 organizations (Beneficiaries):
The duration of MarCh project amounts to 24 months and its budget to € 628.708,77.