The bargain comes with strings attached, however
An interview with the Mayor of Avilés, Spain
Mariví Monteserín entered the political world in 1983 becoming the youngest municipal councillor in Spain, at the time. She served in the Aviles City Council until 1999, at times being in the position of deputy mayor. In 2004 she moved up a rung on the political scale when she was elected as a member of the Spanish Parliament, representing Asturias.
She spent 11 years in Madrid playing a central role in passing laws on gender equality. In 2006, she was one of the recipients of the Award from the Observatory against Domestic and Gender Violence of the General Council of the Judiciary. She returned to Aviles and local politics when she was elected as a Mayor of that city in 2015.
Madam Mayor, how would you describe Avilés in your own words?
Avilés is a city in the north of Spain, with more than a thousand years of history, which has managed to combine its deep industrial conception, and its rich background and cultural present, with a high quality of life linked to the strength of its public services. Culture, quality of life, industrial modernity, productive diversification and a determined commitment to innovation describe and identify the new reality of Avilés.
Your city is important to the unique identity that the Asturias region holds. Can you tell us more about its heritage and its connection to the region?
Avilés is a thousand-year-old city that has one of the best-preserved medieval historic centres in Spain. A historic centre rich in architecture and very lively in spirit. It has religious and civil buildings, some with more than 8 centuries of history, which today are at the service of the citizenry and are home to important public facilities.
The Historic Center of Avilés pleasantly surprises those who visit us and is a source of pride for the citizens. Our history connects to our future. Here you can find the Oscar Niemeyer International Cultural Center, one of the main works of this architect in Europe, the only work of him in Spain and a great space for cultural promotion and exchange.
In addition, Avilés is an important city of the European Atlantic Arc, with an active presence in important European networks that allows us to maintain a continuous and very fruitful relationship with the large cities of the Union, convinced that this is the way to live and contribute to the construction of a common European reality.
What are the main economic sectors in your municipality and how were they affected by the Covid crisis?
Our origin as a purely industrial city, with a productive specialization in this sector, makes us a singular case in Spain. In recent years, Avilés undertook an ambitious process of productive diversification, around the service sector, where our commitment to smart tourism linked to a high quality of life stands out. Avilés is one of the founding cities of the Network of Smart Tourism Destinations of Spain.
In this area, we are developing an ambitious and innovative Spanish learning project, a public-private initiative, which we are going to start this year and which will turn Avilés into an innovative language tourism destination.
The outstanding industrial specialization of Avilés has endowed us with important strengths in the face of the ‘tsunami’ wave caused by Covid 19. Manufacturing is an activity that stands out for its greater capacity to resist in the face of short-term crises.
However, the pandemic has directly, and especially, affected activities related to the services sector, which have had to paralyze their activity and have been forced to submit to significant restrictions to contain the spread of the disease. This has required us to help economically the most affected sectors in order to mitigate the difficulties generated.
Avilés has an important welfare system that is activated at the moment when any citizen suffers an economic difficulty. Its objective is to provide residents with the secure feeling that the administration always responds to any difficulties that may arise. Faced with the first effects of the crisis, we made an important effort so that no family would experience difficult situations.
What type of transformation projects are there in the municipality today?
Avilés has several important urban transformation projects. The most important is the Sustainable Mobility Plan, through which we are going to transform the ways of moving around the city, adapting it to the new concept of ‘quarter-hour’ cities.
These are cities that allow citizens to move throughout in sustainable means and in a minimum time to access to all kinds of services. The Mobility Plan allows us to design the displacement model of the new century and lay the foundations for a sustainable city model.
The continuous improvement of our historic centre is another priority, with different projects underway to further increase its attractiveness and reinforce its role as a magnet for attracting visitors and tourists. One of them is the recovery of a section of our Medieval Wall.
What plans are there for urban development based on R&D&I?
The municipality today is undergoing a process of industrial conversion and modernization linked to knowledge, research and innovation. Our Scientific Technological Park "Avilés Isla de la Innovación" is a large industrial research and innovation ecosystem, where five specialized research centers carry out their activities in materials, sustainable energies and digitization processes.
Among these centers, the "Manzana del Acero" stands out - unique in the world due to its characteristics - it reproduces at scale the integral cycle of a steel factory, from which research is carried out on its production activity.The presence of these centers makes it easier for Avilés to specialize in the new disruptive industries linked to robotics, sensorization, smart logistics, 3D printing, Big Data, virtual reality or nanotechnology.
We are currently promoting, together with the Government of Spain, the development of a new business park that will be one of the first in the country carrying a green label. The expansion of the "Avilés Isla de la Innovación" Science and Tech Park is also in the works.
We aspire to be one of the cities that manages to introduce a new industrial concept. In this task, we have important projects underway related to research, knowledge development and entrepreneurship around manufacturing, which will allow us to contribute a new concept model and turn Avilés into an important industrial enclave in Europe.
What is your vision for the future of Avilés?
Avilés presents important strengths for the future, as I have been able to show in the previous questions. Undoubtedly, the greatest of all is that we have been able to build a society endowed with a quality of life, with high-level educational, health and cultural services, and which offers security to those who live here.
This includes a proposal of industrial modernization that will allow us to consolidate a productive fabric capable of attracting important projects and generating new employment. The future of Avilés is being built around industrial innovation, quality of life and culture.
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