Riga’s investment openings line up as brain drain reverses

Latvia’s capital city Riga is benefitting from positive regional dynamics, according to mayor Mārtiņš Staķis.

“Central and Eastern Europe is the fastest growing region and [many of the most successful] cities for investment are from the CEE region,” he said.

A transport hub, Riga has the biggest airport in the Baltics with more than 100 routes.

In a national perspective, Riga dominates the Latvian economy. “If you want to invest in our country you must first discover Riga, which represents more than 50% of the total economy, and 75% if you look at the wider city region,” he said.

The city has in recent years gained influence as a tech hub, though the mayor pointed out there is a long history of innovation.

“During the Soviet times Riga was the brains of the Soviet Union, where all the research and development was made in the region. We still continue on this path,” the mayor said. “One of the biggest IT companies in terms of hardware is in Riga, MikroTik, which has €1.5 billion in sales a year, or Printful which is one of the unicorns. So we are good at this.”

In terms of human capital, 97% of the population speaks two languages and more than 60% speak three, and the problem of brain drain is being reversed. “A few years ago we still had the problem of brain drain, with many Latvians going elsewhere in Europe for work, but now we see the reverse as they see much more possibility [at home] than elsewhere. And they are very well educated.”

Pharma and medical products is another successful sector for Riga, “This year the biggest European factory and warehouse in that sector will be built in Latvia. We are also happy to announce a huge green energy project coming soon,” Staķis said.

Despite recent successes, Riga has scope for more development and investment.

“Riga is a little bit an underdeveloped city, which is a strength at the same time [but is] why we are announcing a €2 billion [development] project, a 47 hectare [site] by the seaside, five minutes from the centre of the city,” the mayor said.

“Investors these days are really interested in building new residential and office buildings in the centre, as there is a lot of demand from international workers and companies.”

Please click on the video above to watch the full interview or listen to the podcast below.