Interview with Vyacheslav Shport, governor of Khabarovsk region
"Komsomolsk-on-Amur is to become another fast-paced center of the Russian Far East. It is a city with a legendary history and modern high-tech industries, producing both high-demand civilian products and enjoying success in the defense industry as well. However, currently the municipal and social infrastructures are in a state of neglect.
It can be seen both in the overall image of the city and in the athletic, cultural, educational and medical institutions and facilities of the area, which does not match the potential of the city at all. This is one of the reasons for the difficulty to attract young specialists here, yet the regional companies are in desperate need of new employees. I believe that we need to concentrate our resources within the existing development programs and use them to fix the municipal problems plaguing Komsomolsk-on-Amur without further delay."
The President of Russia Vladimir Putin during his Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly on December 3, 2015.
Today, we can see how the President's will is coming true in actions, not just in words, because it is his firm belief that the Russian Far East is a key development center for our country. A long-term revival plan came effective in April 2016 for Komsomolsk-on-Amur, the legendary City of Youth, or the Sunrise City. Russia has never seen such bold and firm decisions through its 25-year-long new historical period. We came to talk about the future of the city with Vyacheslav Shport, the Governor of the Khabarovsk Krai.
- Vyacheslav Ivanovich, people say that Vladimir Putin's words about Komsomolsk-on-Amur in his Address to the Federal Assembly literally breathed a third wind into the city. Why “third”?
- This is for the city got its second wind by the Decree of the Council of Ministers of the USSR in 1983 "On further development measures in 1984-1990 for the municipal economy of Komsomolsk-on-Amur," and by the General Plan approved at the end of 1987. These documents provided measures to increase the city's population up to half a million residents, extend the city boundaries through residential construction, and provide housing to every citizen by 2005, according to the rate of 18 square meters per person.
In the late 1980s, Komsomolsk-on-Amur was really flourishing. Giant industrial companies were facing renovation. At that very time, the Komsomolsk Aircraft Plant started manufacturing the famous SU-27, SU-30 and SU-33 fighter planes along with their modifications, which made the plant known throughout the world. Atomic-power ships and surface naval vessels used to roll off the shipways of the city's shipbuilding yard. A flagship metallurgical enterprise, the far-eastern semi-integrated steelworks Amurmetall, started its operation.
The city became an all-Union top-priority construction site and outstripped Khabarovsk in terms of the residential development growth rates. Every year, the residents of the city enjoyed from 240 to 300 thousand square meters of new apartments, two or three kindergartens, schools, outpatient clinics, shops, cinemas. New residential districts popped up, and people were pouring into the city. They did not just come for the fog and catch a whiff of the taiga, they came to make money and benefit from what the north had to offer. They were attracted both by large-scale projects and by the chance to receive free housing close to the place of employment. Thus, citizens built the city, and the city built the citizens in return. This was not surprising, as even from the very beginning of its heroic history Komsomolsk has been the face of the Khabarovsk Krai, and was referred to as "the hand that feeds" by local residents. By 1989, the population of the city had reached 318,000. However, due to the reasons we all know, it declined drastically in the following decades.
- You assumed leadership of the region in May 2009, the peak of the global financial recession. What did you get started with first?
- I started from the top. First, we needed to take care of the defense industry enterprises with huge debts owed to them for already completed defense orders. Salaries had not been paid for months, so social tension was becoming strained. Back then, I was thinking of how to help people, prevent spikes in unemployment and give companies the workload they needed to survive.
A week after I had taken office, Vladimir Putin visited Komsomolsk-on-Amur, which resulted into certain measures taken to preserve our industrial giants. We worked actively ramping up the workload for those enterprises, and on attracting civil and military orders. We signed several major contracts with the Komsomolsk-on-Amur Aircraft Plant at once. The Amur Ship-Building Yard completed the "Nerpa" A-sub, regardless of an almost two billion rubles lacking to finish it. Nevertheless, this enormous sum was not even specified anywhere! So then, we had to prove that the Yard actually needed the money very badly; in the end, they got it.
The following year, 2010, industry started to increase its pace. We paid off all the debts, settled the accounts, and there was even a surplus left over from budget revenues. At that time, we also started a large project on the technical re‑equipment of the enterprises in order to keep their workload stable. In 2011, we passed through the worst of the crisis. Moreover, even the flood in 2013 could not throw us off our stride!
- The upward trend has remained unchanged since that time. In H1 2016, the Industrial Production Index in the region was at 104.7%. What helped you to reach it?
- This was all thanks to the aircraft industry. The Sukhoi Aviation Holding Company branch Y. A. Gagarin KnAAZ factory in Komsomolsk-on-Amur branch increased production by almost 15%, and the Komsomolsk-on-Amur branch of Sukhoi Civil Aircrafts Company by a factor of 2.6. This year, the Komsomolsk-on-Amur Aircraft Plant intends to fulfill its second contract for the delivery of 50 SU-35S aircrafts to the Ministry of Defense. Eleven units of Sukhoi Superjet 100-passenger aircrafts have been delivered to the Zhukovski air base. As for the Amur Ship-Building Yard, they laid keel in the fourth corvette for the Russian Navy this July. I would like to mention that thanks to the support of our President Vladimir Putin and Vice Prime Minister Dmitriy Rogozin, defense order volumes for our companies have almost tripled within the last five years.
- An increase in the volume of orders is a good thing, no doubt. However, what are the benefits for citizens?
- You are right, being enthusiastic about production is not enough to revitalize the city. People want to start enjoying their lives today. Yuri Trutnev, the Deputy Prime Minister and Russian Presidential Envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District, held a session on the integrated development of Komsomolsk-on-Amur in October 2015 in Moscow. A lot was said about the city having always been and currently being an engineering outpost in the Russian Far East. Therefore, it is necessary to preserve and improve upon the existing potential, as well as apply our best efforts to make life in the city more comfortable. In this concern, a year ago the agreements were signed to create Khabarovsk and Komsomolsk TPSEDs (Territories of Priority Social and Economic Development), and a long-term Integrated Social and Economic Development Plan for Komsomolsk-on-Amur was adopted. All of these together have given the city its third wind.
From now on, our main strategic goal is to re-establish Komsomolsk-on-Amur's status as an engineering and industrial center of the Far Eastern Federal District. This year we have gone ahead with the adopted Development Plan. Before anything else, investment will contribute for the development of the city's infrastructure, therefore improving the life of every citizen. In mid-August, we received the first tranche of RUB 63 million from the federal budget to complete the construction of a water intake facility. This year we are going to start renovating the city Drama Theater and building a new engineering school.
Next year we plan to construct or reconstruct about eleven municipal, which is an anniversary year for the City of Youth. These include the reconstruction of the river embankment, utility networks, electric substations, and the construction of a child health complex, cancer center, Komsomolsky tourist complex, sports center and other attractions. Our top priority today is the timely preparation and approval of design documentation, as well as enrolling these objects in the federal targeted investment program.
We plan to construct as many as 27 facilities and hold 33 events by 2025. A total of RUB 62.9 billion has been allocated for the entire development program, including RUB 49.3 billion from the federal budget and RUB 6.5 billion from the regional budget. An additional 7.2 billion rubles is planned to be raised from non-budgetary sources."
- Which of the municipal facilities does the city need the most?
- In fact, it most needs all of these. Still, the protective dam is perhaps more necessary than the rest. We cannot allow the catastrophe of 2013 to repeat, as than time the city was truly under the threat of complete submerging. Only the courage of our citizens helped avert the disaster.
- As for the investments in municipal infrastructure, everything seems clear enough. However, what about actions taken on development of the human capital in the region?
- We have already established a Center for the certification and standardization of small and medium businesses. A new regional business incubator is also currently under construction, and we plan to put it into operation by the end of this year.
The more important is that the formation of our one-of-a-kind interregional competence center is complete. In a word, this project is unique. After the flood in 2013, Olga Golodets, the Vice Prime Minister of Russia, visited the city, and it was her initiative to include the city in a pilot labor mobility program. The professional competence center was established as part of this effort. Only six similar centers are planned for establishment throughout the whole country. In our center, we will summarize the knowledge and practices developed within the aircraft and shipbuilding industry cluster and in the formation of the TPSEDs.
Now we already possess plenty of preliminary practice in this sphere. Nevertheless, we need to move forward and strive to make our Komsomolsk-on-Amur State Technical University a major, country-recognized educational institution and the base center in Russia for training engineers. Young specialists will prepare and train to work in the Aircraft Plant under the system of “school-higher education-industrial enterprise”. There is also another interesting project regarding an engineering school that does not just need building and equipment. We also need to develop a clear and effective system for the training of young engineers. This way we can fulfill the request of Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian Prime Minister, to provide worthy personnel for our industrial enterprises."
- Yuri Trutnev, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Russian Presidential Envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District, took a favorable view of your work on forming the Khabarovsk and Komsomolsk TPSEDs. He noted that the first one is quite a success, but the second one has a long way left to go. What is your progress in this regard?
- Indeed, the Komsomolsk TPSED is in need of development. Its future has a close connection with the implementation of the Integrated Development Plan. We have a lot to do here. Currently, there are six entities registered in the Komsomolsk TPSED, and ten applications submitted. These are projects for establishing a metal ware processing company, a Far Eastern center of added-value wood processing in Amursk, and a project for renovating the fish‑processing complex. The total sum of registered investments amounts to 7.8 billion rubles, and it will create 1,600 new workplaces.
The TPSED is designed for advanced and modern production processes. For investors to come and start their projects immediately, the regional administration decided to construct a genuine industrial park based on the Parus platform. The park will be comprised of pre-prepared premises with all utilities already connected. Although originally we planned to start from a fresh page.
Moreover, there are proposals to extend the boundaries of the Komsomolsk TPSED. In particular, Rusolovo is planning to build an ore mining and processing mill in the Solnechny District, ASIA LES wants to start producing lumber in Beryozovy settlement, and there are investors interested in developing a ski resort called Kholdomi.
- What is going to happen with Amurmetall?
- This is a difficult question. However, I can say one thing with certainty: nobody is currently talking about closing the plant. The plant employs an excellent crew of four thousand steel workers bringing fame to our region with their heroic achievements in labor. The era of untrustworthy businesspersons, who wanted to make a fast buck and then leave the region forever, is over. Today we only negotiate with reliable and ambitious entrepreneurs, who are ready to invest in the construction of a new rolling mill to reanimate the plant. You know, this plant is the only iron and steel company in the entire Russian Far East. We desperately need rolled products, both in the regional shipbuilding yards and in the Sovgavan ship-repairing yard. We have an agreement on supplying slabs to Vladivostok. I am sure that the plans of our prospective investors are workable enough.
- The regional administration is discussing plans for the construction of the Techno EXPO exhibition center in Komsomolsk-on-Amur. Is this true?
- We aim at developing exhibition activities in Komsomolsk-on-Amur. The working party affiliated with the regional administration is formed in cooperation with the Ministry of Industry and Trade and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation. We considered possible sites for the construction of the center and developed a concept based on the experience of EXPO centers in Moscow and other regions of Russia. We plan to use the center to exhibit innovative technologies and achievements in engineering specially developed for the Russian Far East and Asian Pacific countries.
- When will we be able to take a direct flight from Moscow to Komsomolsk-on-Amur again?
- We are at the point of negotiations on this issue with the Ministry of Transportation of the Russian Federation and with Aurora, S7, VimAvia and AzurAir. We have already reached an agreement with VimAvia for managing scheduled flights from Moscow to Komsomolsk-on-Amur starting on October 1.