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Automotive industry

Labor force
Plovdiv district has a robust labor market that continues to expand in recent years. Just for the 2015 – 2017 period, its labor market marked a growth of more than 26 000 people – more than any other region in the country. In terms of employment, Plovdiv has a strong industrial profile. There are approximately 75 000 jobs in the manufacturing sector, which constitute 1/3 of all employed in Plovdiv district. Plovdiv is also the region with most people working in manufacturing companies in Bulgaria. A vibrant medium-technology cluster has emerged in the industrial zones around Plovdiv, employing over 39 000 people or more than half of the local industrial workers. That includes many auto suppliers, as well as other producers of machinery, metal, electrical and plastics products. The labor force is specialized but nevertheless readily adaptable to the demands of the automotive producers and suppliers.

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Labor cost
Manufacturing labor costs in Bulgaria are still the lowest in the EU, being more than two times lower than those in the countries from the Visegrad Group, attractive for automotive investors – Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland. Wages in manufacturing, in both the Plovdiv district and in the country on average, typically have a slightly higher growth rate than the average. Even though Plovdiv has one of the highest wage growth rates in manufacturing, wages in absolute terms are still lower than those in Sofia, Varna, Burgas and Stara Zagora. The growth of labor productivity in Plovdiv district outpaces the increase in wages. Due to significant capital investments, process optimization and employee training, labor productivity in mid-tech companies has increased by almost 70% in the 2012-2017 period.

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Gross wages in manufacturing
Hiring labor for mid-tech industries generally has higher costs than employing a worker in the low-tech sectors. The competitive salaries create opportunities for attracting and requalifying workers from such low-tech sectors as apparel and food production, as well as from other non-manufacturing sectors like trade and construction.

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Investor incentives
Bulgarian investment legislation provides a wide array of incentives for priority investors, both financial and non-financial. In order to receive а priority investment status, an investor in the automotive sector must meet the requirements for €25.6 million threshold amount of investments and 100 minimum average annual number of people employed. In most cases, financial incentives represent regional state aid under the European Commission regulation. The whole region of Plovdiv is eligible for regional aid. The maximum aid intensities for large companies carrying out projects in the Plovdiv region is set at 50% of the total investment cost (for projects with eligible expenditure below €50 million.)

Financial incentives

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Additional investment incentives

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Transport & Logistics
Plovdiv is well connected by road, air and railway, providing automotive manufacturers great opportunities for just-in-time deliveries from suppliers, especially those from Romania and the Visegrad Group. With its strategic location and infrastructure upgrading, the city offers proximity to the biggest Western and Eastern car markets. The city is a major link in the chain of the transport routes connecting Europe and Asia and an intersection point of three Pan-European corridors. Two highways connect Plovdiv with the international transport links, as well as with major ports in Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey. Most of the industrial parks offer motor highway access within 10 km.  Plovdiv Airport is the regional airport that serves South-Central Bulgaria for scheduled transportation (both passenger and cargo flights) and charter flights. The airport is situated in close proximity to Kuklen Industrial Zone, as well as in less than 35 km from the other industrial parks in the region.

The railway system in the region is part of Rail Freight Corridor Orient/East-Med that links the northern ports of Germany with the Eastern and South-Eastern parts of Europe. 15 transport companies are licensed in Bulgaria to provide cargo transport services, including major international companies like DB Schenker and Rail Cargo Group. Many of the rail freight operators offer transportation services of wide range of cargos in Double Pocket-Twin wagons (for the automotive industry), FALS wagons (for construction materials), refrigerated trailers (for food), and tank wagons (for fuels and chemical products). The rail freight infrastructure includes an intermodal terminal and a marshaling yard. The capacity of the fully equipped terminal is 80 000 intermodal transport units (UTI). The Terminal offers full range of freight transport services, including containerization, storage and stacking, freight forwarding and customs brokerage.
Trade across borders
Plovdiv has a free-trade zone and a customs terminal. In close proximity to the customs terminal, many customs agencies provide comprehensive customs services, including preparation of customs transit documents, transport documents, Intrastate declarations, certificates of origin and export declaration completion of EU goods. In its 2019 Doing Business report, the World Bank ranks Bulgaria among the countries with the best regulatory performance in relation to the import border compliance procedures. With its fast and low-cost border procedures, Bulgaria ranks ahead of countries like Serbia, Greece, Turkey and Germany.

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