Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Oknoplast sees Europe' s window of opportunity

By CNN Wire staff
March 7, 2013 -- Updated 1851 GMT (0251 HKT)
  • Poland has been a success story amongst the transition economies, proving resilient to recession
  • Oknoplast's annual turnover topped $120 million last year but exports have come under pressure
  • The EU Flag flying outside the factory reflects Placek's ambitious outlook for the business

(CNN) -- At Oknoplast's production site outside Krakow, Poland, windows of all shapes and sizes are stacked up ready for delivery -- and they all have homes to go to.

The family-run business has been churning out its bespoke windows for nearly 20 years. Now, 45,000 a month are sliding off the production line, most of them destined for export locations across Europe.

Read more: Auto industry revs up recovery on Spain

"Last year was the first year when most of our production went to export", Oknoplast President Mikolaj Placek told CNN.

For Placek, Poland's entry into the European Union in 2004 provided an opportunity to expand beyond his home market, but it's a delicate financial balancing act.

"We export only to EU countries. The export is profitable when you export up to a maximum of 2,000 to 2,500 kilometers from the factory," he explained.

Read more: Ebro CEO: Strong euro is 'major concern'

So, Placek targeted Italy for his expansion plans -- and it's now the company's biggest market outside of Poland.

Poland has been a success story amongst the transition economies, proving resilient to the cold winds of recession which have swept across Europe. It's maintained growth, but is now slowing down.

"Naturally I'm worried," Placek told CNN. "But the key is to be better than our competitors. We have to work harder, lower our costs and be more competitive in service and flexibility."

Read more: Henkel: Reaping rewards of its revamp

While the recipe is not new, the implementation is vital if Poland's manufacturing sector is to thrive.

"We can use the advantage that our labor costs are lower than in Western Europe" Placeck said. "Poland is becoming one of the biggest country's for production that is labor intensive," he added.

Oknoplast's annual turnover topped $120 million last year, but, with unemployment rising and growth in Europe and Poland slowing down, exports are coming under pressure.

Despite that Placek is optimistic, because he's been here before. "When the crisis hit for the first time in 2008 I took market share; -- this is our policy -- to take market share from our competitors," he said. "We are very aggressive with our plans to take over our competitors...only in this way can we develop faster."

Placek is confident his strategy will compensate for any slowdown in the domestic market, which still accounts for 45% of Oknoplast's sales.

The EU Flag flying outside the factory reflects Placek's ambitious outlook for the business. "We want to be perceived as a European company, not as a local Polish one" he declared proudly.

Part of complete coverage on
Marketplace Europe
January 16, 2014 -- Updated 1631 GMT (0031 HKT)
Marketplace Europe visits Latvia to see how the Baltic country has made its transition to the Euro from the Lat.
January 16, 2014 -- Updated 1630 GMT (0030 HKT)
CNN's Nina Dos Santos visits Latvia to speak to the country's outgoing Prime Minister and the prospects for the eurozone's 18th member.
January 2, 2014 -- Updated 1640 GMT (0040 HKT)
Malta is the gateway to Europe and on the frontline of the immigration flows. Isa Soares reports from a detention center on the Mediterranean island.
January 2, 2014 -- Updated 1641 GMT (0041 HKT)
CNN's Isa Soares speaks with people on the streets of Valletta who say their country can't cope with more migrants from Africa and the Middle East.
January 9, 2014 -- Updated 1006 GMT (1806 HKT)
Malta cannot afford to continue supporting migrants from war-torn countries in its over-crowded detention camps, the country's foreign minister has told CNN.
December 26, 2013 -- Updated 2123 GMT (0523 HKT)
Slow recoveries, bailouts, and youth unemployment. Richard Quest speaks to Europe's top CEOs about the issues of 2013.
December 26, 2013 -- Updated 2114 GMT (0514 HKT)
CNN's Richard Quest speaks to economist Bob Parker about defining moments of 2013 and about what to expect in 2014.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 1815 GMT (0215 HKT)
Estonia is setting the pace for other European nations with a thriving economy and its tech industry, according to the Baltic nation's leader.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 1903 GMT (0303 HKT)
The Baltic nation of Estonia is developing its oil shale energy reserves in a bid to become energy self-sufficient.
November 29, 2013 -- Updated 0925 GMT (1725 HKT)
Europe must stop being nationalistic if it wants to help a lost generation of workers, the regional boss of U.S. conglomerate General Electric says.
November 14, 2013 -- Updated 1706 GMT (0106 HKT)
Peer at the windows and you'll spot big colorful chairs, plastic plants and a huge bed, but this is no department store.
November 19, 2013 -- Updated 1006 GMT (1806 HKT)
There once was a time, many years ago, when the sounds of bagpipes struck fear into the stomachs of Englishmen.
November 11, 2013 -- Updated 1116 GMT (1916 HKT)
Greece is on the way to economic recovery as investor faith returns to the recession-ridden eurozone nation, an executive at Greece's largest bank has told CNN.
November 8, 2013 -- Updated 1200 GMT (2000 HKT)
Could Greece's famous spice help the country's farmers through a four-year long economic crisis.
November 1, 2013 -- Updated 1307 GMT (2107 HKT)
One of the masterminds behind the euro says Europe would have suffered a far worse fate if the single currency had never been created.
October 31, 2013 -- Updated 1741 GMT (0141 HKT)
Nina Dos Santos visits the Dutch city where the European treaty carrying the city's name came into force 20 years ago.
October 25, 2013 -- Updated 1510 GMT (2310 HKT)
As Spain continues its drive to slash budgets and cut spending, one of the nation's favorite pastimes is under threat as ministers look for ways to boost productivity.
October 24, 2013 -- Updated 1617 GMT (0017 HKT)
The high commissioner of Brand Spain talks about getting the country back on its fee and attracting business.