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Antonio Francés: We look to the future wanting to be prepared to face the new socio-economic and environmental challenges

Antonio Francés: We look to the future wanting to be prepared to face the new socio-economic and environmental challenges

An interview with the mayor of Alcoi, in Spain

Antonio Francés holds a Diploma in Business Sciences and a Bachelor of Business Administration and Management. He has worked as a business consultant and associate professor at the Faculty of Economics of the University of Alicante.

Member of the PSPV (Valencian Socialist Party) since 1995, and its Secretary-General from 2008 to 2018. He was also a Councilor at the Alcoi City Council in opposition from 2007 to 2011. He has been serving as the Mayor of Alcoi since 2011, having been elected three times to that post.

Mr. Mayor, how would you describe Alcoi in your own words?

Alcoi is a city of about 60,000 inhabitants in the interior of the province of Alicante, strategically located and endowed with a privileged environment, with two natural parks within its municipal term. It is a population with character, which throughout its history has always led the transformation processes. It has been at the head of the Industrial Revolution, associative movements or artistic currents such as Modernism - still very present in the city.

 The people of Alcoy feel a lot of pride in our traditions, such as the Moors and Christians Festival (of International Tourist Interest) or the Three Kings Parade (the oldest of its kind); in our architectural heritage and in our natural wealth. But we also look to the future and want to be prepared to face new socio-economic and environmental challenges.

What are the main economic sectors in your municipality and how have they been affected by the Covid crisis?

Alcoi is a city with a long business tradition and a diversified industrial fabric, with deep-rooted sectors such as textiles, cosmetics and agri-food, as well as a thriving technological side. All of them have been able to adapt, reinvent themselves and resist during the pandemic.

In addition, as the capital of the region, Alcoi is a city with an important component of specialized services, offered by small and medium-sized companies, as well as many freelancers, especially those dedicated to the hospitality industry. This is the sector that has been most affected.

What kind of support have the affected sectors received?

Since the declaration of the State of Alarm, the Alcoi City Council has stood by the public with extraordinary social and economic measures to alleviate the needs arising from the pandemic. Thus, in 2020, about 900,000 euros were allocated to the 'ReactivAlcoi' aid programme to try to compensate for the reduction in income.

This provided liquidity to local companies to contribute to the fulfilment of their business obligations, as well as to maintain employment. In 2021, an additional 2.5 million euros will be allocated in collaboration with other administrations so that no one is left behind in this complicated situation.

Could you tell us more about the Fundició Rodes project in Alcoi?

It is about the transformation of an old set of metallurgical factories to turn them into an industrial park specialized in emerging technological sectors. We are talking about a whole block of 12,000 square meters of surface, located in one of the most populated neighbourhoods of the city, a complex with several buildings that once housed an important industrial activity but has been in disuse for decades.

Its rehabilitation and enhancement will involve a total investment of 12 million euros, of which the European Union contributes 3.7 million euros through the European Regional Development Funds (ERDF) 2014-2020. In addition to its fundamental role in positioning Alcoi as a benchmark in the most cutting-edge industrial sectors, such as robotics, artificial intelligence or digitization, Fundició Rodes will also reserve space for the socio-cultural revitalization of the neighbourhood, something highly demanded and important.

Speaking of such projects, how do you envision the transformations in your city in the future?

Rodes is just one of the projects included in the Integrated Sustainable Urban Development Strategy, EDUSI-Alcoidemà, an ambitious € 20 million plan 50% co-financed by the European Union and which is helping to transform the city by making it smarter, more sustainable and inclusive. In turn, all these projects are part of our 2017-2025 Strategic Plan and are related to other initiatives, such as the conversion of Alcoy into a Smart City that uses new technologies to be more efficient and to achieve a better quality of life for its citizens.

This is how we want to imagine the city in the future and other initiatives such as the Industrial Boost Plan contribute to this objective, which is complemented by yet another European project in which we participate - the Intelligent Cities Challenge of the European Commission.

Finally, how is the wave of vaccination going in your municipality?

The vaccination campaign in Alcoy follows the deadlines set by the health authorities of the Valencian Government, which has managed to place our Autonomous Community among those with the best-accumulated incidence data in all of Europe. On the part of the City Council, we have offered Health spaces for the mass vaccination of teachers and citizens in general and we can say that vaccination is proceeding at a good pace and with total normality. We are confident that the vaccine supply will be adequate, and we will soon be able to count on most of the population being immunized.

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