Well, well, well!
No – not three holes in the ground filled with water, but rather a sarcastic acknowledgement that Odessa City Hall has finally got around to creating a new website – Invest in Odessa.
I deliberately use the word “finally”, as way back in autumn 2007 when I first met Mikhail Freidlin, he was working as a special advisor to the Mayor of Odessa (then Edward Gurvitz) on strategic planning and had developed a dozen or so very good presentations for investors on CD Rom for specific projects. Amongst those dozen or so projects, there were 4 or 5 that were capable of giving a reasonable ROI in a reasonable time frame.
Mikhail was, at least at the time, one of the very few in Odessa who truly understood PFI/PPP and quite a number of the projects were of that nature. Naturally we hit it off as I have done numerous PFI projects when working with Mowlem PLC many years ago, after leaving the service of “The Crown/HMG” in various roles.
Unfortunately, the global financial prolapse occurred and as a consequence, fear of risk, particularly in central and eastern Europe, replaced the previous desire to find projects to invest in.
However, back then when nobody knew the financial collapse was about to happen, I had several meetings with Mikhail, and agreed to push some of the projects under the noses of some then interested and affluent investors in all things Eastern Europe with experience in PFI/PPP, special purpose vehicles et al – needless to say the timing proved to be less than fortuitous. O fortuna indeed!
At the time I questioned why such projects were not available on-line to download and why, in fact, there was no such thing as an “Invest in Odessa” website to which interested parties could be initially directed and have an overview of all projects the city was wishing to pursue. “Tempters”, for want of a better expression.
Time stands still for no man of course, and soon the vast majority of the western world became engulfed in monetary and fiscal consolidation rather than the risks involved in expansion and development.
A few days ago I noticed the launch of “Invest in Odessa” website by City Hall. Many of the projects on the website are exactly the same as those identified and developed by Mikhail, although the website still does not allow for downloading his very good presentations.
It also has to be said that not all the pages are translated into English on the English language profile, and that the list if links to legislation, or what appear to be links, don’t actually work – although at least it points readers in the direction of relevant legislation.
Nonetheless, a little of what was discussed in autumn 2007 appears to have become a reality in autumn 2012 (but by no means much of what was discussed) – not that this is the fault of Mikhail, from 2010 we have had a new Mayor who doesn’t listen to anybody, least of all advisors to the previous Mayor.
Now it remains to be seen quite how this new website and new drive to attract inward investment into Odessa will progress. As anybody who works on the Internet knows, content is king. Plus the more roads you have leading back to Rome (or in this case links to Invest in Odessa) littering cyberspace the better.
It also does not replace the “roadshow” of sending people to every possible high grade investment gathering around the EU and beyond pushing the projects or actively finding potential investors etc.
A website is a public platform that more often than not is direction-less when it comes to finding the target audience. Investment audiences do not need to surf the Internet to find projects in which to invest. Serious projects find investors – actively – rather than passively via a website, unless the website is some sort of generic “crowd funding” vehicle.
I do not want this entry to become a lesson in attracting project finance or basic strategic marketing, but you get my point I’m sure.
Anyway, “Invest in Odessa” now exists – and about time – even if we are still to emerge from the financial prolapse that began in 2008. How effective it will be remains to be seen however.