Official from Polish city trades ideas with Mayor Lowe


Published: Monday, January 23, 2012 at 10:21 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 23, 2012 at 10:21 p.m.

A new sister-city partnership might have been born Monday morning, when an official from a Polish capital kicked off his weeklong visit in Gainesville at City Hall.

Marek Ustrobinski, the deputy mayor of Rzeszow, Poland, met with Mayor Craig Lowe and talked with him about the future of public transportation and the bonds their cities share.

Rzeszow, a city of about 180,000, including some 60,000 students, is home to six university campuses and is the capital of the southeastern Podkarpackie Voivodeship, the Polish equivalent of a state.

There's a business tie, too.

The city was the first in Europe to begin using a software called Appia, which was developed by the Gainesville company Info Tech to help governments manage construction and other projects.

Ustrobinski said the city has a $330 million budget and is using Appia to handle $110 million worth of road, building and stadium projects.

Later Monday, he toured the 100-megawatt biomass plant that is under construction and met with a representative from Gainesville's Regional Transit System to talk about hybrid fuels. During the week, he will visit the University of Florida and meet with city engineers to discuss how they use the same software.

Ustrobinski, whose position is not elected and who serves as the right-hand man to the mayor, said his city has embraced alternative energy by developing a prototype of a solar-power bus.

"There's definitely a commonality there," Lowe said.

On the city's brochure, Rzeszow is called the "capital of innovation," a familiar buzzword in Gainesville, where UF's Florida Innovation Hub is being built at Innovation Square.

Lowe said he is exploring implementing a bike-share program like Rzeszow and a number of American cities have.

Margaret Andraka, the president of Enformatic Inc., another Gainesville company that distributes Appia in Europe, said Rzeszow officials wanted to come here to exchange "best practices." Andraka said she will be flying to Slovakia next week to demonstrate the software for ministry leaders there.

"It's very friendly," Ustrobinski said of the product.

Lowe had to leave for a 10 a.m. appointment and shook hands with Ustrobinski. The mayor is hoping to start up a sister relationship between their cities, meaning the potential for more visits.

"Welcome to Gainesville, always," Lowe said.

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