On Monday, March 5th, the initiative Business club Rijeka 2020 was presented at Ivan pl. Zajc theatre, developed by RIJEKA 2020 in cooperation with Rijeka agglomeration’s Competitiveness advisory council.

In front of many entrepreneurs and distinguished guests from Rijeka’s and Croatia’s political, economic, social, and cultural circles, the Business club 2020 initiative was presented by Vojko Obersnel, mayor of Rijeka, Marin Blažević, head of Ivan pl. Zajc theatre, Emina Višnić, director of RIJEKA 2020, Irena Kregar Šegota, director of development and strategic partnerships for RIJEKA 2020, and Boris Popović, president of UA Rijeka’s Competitiveness advisory council.

The initiative’s presentation was followed by the amazing concert titled “Pogled prema 2020: EPK i HNK gala koncert”, the first joint musical project by ECOC and Zajc theatre, organized in cooperation with the city of Rijeka.

Business club 2020 will gather together entrepreneurs who wish to actively participate in Rijeka 2020 ECOC project but also support cultural and arts projects.

The initiative was envisioned as a community of donors, economic entities mostly from the Primorje – Gorski kotar county which will support the development of culture by financing select ECOC programmes and provide a long term philanthropic investment in cultural projects.

The initiative was presented by Irena Kregar Šegota: “When talking about ECOC, two words are very important: opportunity and partnership. Once we won the title, we also got an opportunity to create something together. Ever since we’ve been working on involving various parties in the ECOC project, and the Business club 2020 initiative is one such attempt at involving the business sector.

Business club Rijeka 2020 is necessary because, once developed, it will have the power of a large community of entrepreneurs, from the micro to mid-level all the way to big. Their power and their visibility are what make the collective what it is.

Business club is an opportunity for networking both amongst themselves and with the cultural sector and this networking is also an excellent opportunity for mutual benefit.

The club provides an opportunity for entrepreneurs to actively involve themselves with Rijeka 2020 ECOC project, to help it financially, by providing services, or in other ways. The finances are not a primary concern and are not the main reason for the initiative: what is important is to promote and spread the culture of philanthropy which is at a very low level in Croatia, where similar initiatives do not exist.

The Business club is therefore an experiment we’ll work on together but one we’d also like to see continue past 2020, and by that time fulfil its goal of creating permanent links between the cultural and creative sector and the economic sector.

Since Rijeka 2020 will involve refitting the power plant of the former Hartera paper factory into a creative sector hub, we believe entrepreneurs will also find it an opportunity for investment in young cultural creators, publishers, filmmakers, gamers, and workers in all the industries with a positive impact on the market.

We’d like Business club Rijeka 2020 to act independently from RIJEKA 2020, to use and assign its resources in a transparent and self-sufficient manner, with, of course, our help. The emphasis would definitely be on projects that are extremely visible in the community – projects dealing with children, the elderly, ecology, civics, and all the values we believe are important for us, our business community, and everyone in Rijeka, and which make Rijeka recognizable”, Kregar Šegota announced.

Boris Popović emphasized that from an entrepreneurial perspective this is a very interesting opportunity and that it provides competition. “This is an excellent project. It is an opportunity to achieve structural changes in the city and to build a strong business infrastructure. It is an opportunity to create a business sector and new ideas.

The Business club project was already presented to several entrepreneurial and citizen groups (Competitiveness advisory council, Riječki val NGO, Croatian Chamber of commerce, Kvarner Health tourism cluster…) All were more than thrilled by it and consider it exceptional.

Structural changes mediated by the Business club may occur on the market level – the city may and must open up to new markets, create new cultural and creative industries, and develop cultural tourism. With new knowledge and competencies, we have an opportunity to draw in investors, and new technologies and real capital will allow us to gain new knowledge and skills.

It’s important to point out, from a management aspect, that it’s not enough to expect all the changes to come from the top, and that something as big as an ECOC project is being done by a small group of people. This is a very complex project and it needs assistance from all walks of life – both citizens and entrepreneurs, higher education, and politics.

It is an opportunity to change culture and beliefs: cooperation requires openness, synergy requires tolerance, and both are necessary for large-scale success. All this is an opportunity for great change, so it’s up to us to take it.”

Mayor of Rijeka, Vojko Obersnel reminded everyone that Rijeka has always been avant-garde when it comes to culture. “From exceptional art to the fact Rijeka was where first disco clubs and various punk bands came into being. Rijeka’s culture was always special, a little bit different, and ready to take on great challenges. Its people are ready to take up the challenge.”

He added that the ECOC project is motivation to develop creative entrepreneurship, which will be aided by new entrepreneurial incubators aimed primarily towards the creative industries, such as the Energana incubator being developed at the former paper factory. “We want to stop using the term ‘former factory’ and start talking about new spaces that will ensure Rijeka’s visibility and make her a city it’s good to live and great to study in and a fertile ground for entrepreneurial initiatives.

We can’t do this on our own, without the support of the entire community, and especially not without the support of the business community. This is where the idea for the Business club started – because we don’t expect just sponsorships but also for you to recognize the opportunity for further development of entrepreneurial and commercial activities,” Obersnel said.

Emina Višnić, director or RIJEKA 2020, spoke about the “Pogled prema 2020: EPK i HNK” concert and stated she’s personally flattered such a superb cultural event takes place in Rijeka.

“I am glad successful people have gathered, successful not only in the financial sense but also with regards to care towards the community. This tells us we share those most important basic values. Two years from now it will be March 2020, the ECOC opening ceremony will already have happened and will be the talk of the town… I’m certain that by that point you’ll have given shape to what we’re now developing. It will be one of key results and reasons we’ve taken up ECOC. You see, along with amazing cultural and art programmes such as this one, and along with artists promoting this city, heritage such as this is also important to all who are yet to start their own cultural initiatives,” Emina Višnić pointed out.

Marin Blažević, head of Ivan pl. Zajc Croatian national theatre announced the concert by saying it was just the start of what awaits us in 2020 and a standard the theatre aims for. “Our theatre and ECOC have from day one been natural allies – because we want so. The theatre will be one of the main ECOC partners for implementing its 2020 programme, foremost with regards to theatrical but also musical parts of the programme.

It’s also important we combine the best of what the world and what we have to offer, and so opera artists such as Yusif Eyvazov, one of today’s leading tenor, Lucio Gallo, gust of leading opera houses and concert halls, Rosann Rinaldi, a mezzo-soprano and favourite of man Italian opera houses, and Maria Guleghina, one of world’s leading sopranos, will tonight be joined by Kristina Kolar of Rijeka’s theatre and opera, and an entire group of younger and older solo performers,” Blažević said.