INDUSTRIAL ZONE OF SOFIA
INDUSTRIAL ENTERPRISES OF NATIONAL STATUS
By the mid-1940s, Sofia’s industrial development was too dynamic and uneven. The sectors of the light and food industry dominated. Since the establishment of the new regime on 9 September 1944, major changes occurred in the overall national economic structure. This process primarily affected the capital. The increase in the city population, on the one hand, lead to an increase in the consumer’s needs and, on the other hand, ensured a secure supply of manufactured goods. The role of the state in the economic life of the country was rapidly increasing. The necessary investments were provided. A significant part of the budget was spent on building business enterprises in the capital city. The influx of large numbers of settlers provided the necessary workforce. Several industrial zones were gradually formed around the „Voenna Rampa“, „Gara Iskar“, „Nadezhda“ and others. There was a rise in the industrial production, which became a kind of incubator for the development of the national economy.
„Batalova Vodenitsa“ is situated on a relatively limited territory, and its inhabitants were retreating in number of many other districts. In spite of its modest limits, however, the respective state and municipal economic institutionsits directed their attention to it. The 1938 the „Musman“ Plan also provided for the construction of industrial plants to transport materials and works in close proximity to the Ring Road and its warehouse facilities. This predetermined later the shaping of industrial zones around the Central Station and „Serdika“ Station. It is this fact that provoked the great interest in the free areas in „Batalova Vodenitsa“. Large-scale construction was underway here and the neighborhood was to become a business center. There were six industrial enterprises, which arranged in chronological order stand like that: Dairy Plant „Serdica“ (3 „Ohridsko Ezero“ Str), „Kumuna“ State Industrial Enterprise (4 „Odrin“ Str), State Shoe Factory „September 9th“ (83 „Lambi Kandev“ Str.), City economy enterprise (3 „Ohridsko Ezero“ Str ) and the State Enterprise „Hristo Nikov“ (3 „Ohridsko Ezero“ Str.) and the State Enterprise “ Metal Constructions “ (24,“ Kamen Andreev “ Str.). Some of the listed objects, though undergoing substantial transformations, continue to exist today. Others are already completely destroyed or their buildings are being liquidated.
The beginning of the industrial zone was started with the establishment of the „Serdika“ Dairy Plant. Since the 1920s, the idea of Sofia’s milk supply has become a reality, and it dealt with businessmen, municipal councilors and various sanitary services. It was widely commented on in periodical press, it was placed on deliberately organized conferences, and the relevant resolutions were adopted. Foreign specialists were invited to prepare and present to the City Hall their detailed and reasoned report to meet the needs of the city for milk and dairy products. For a number of reasons of a different nature, there was no concrete practical solution to the problem.
However, the interest in Sofia’s milk supply did not diminish. It was dictated primarily by the rapid demographic development of the capital and the importance of milk as a food product. According to statistical data in 1939, total milk production in Bulgaria exceeded half a billion liters. On average, per capita, 85 liters were consumed annually or directly in milk products. Only 17 million liters were consumed in Sofia. A comparative table shows that this consumption exceeds that of the meat (15 million kilograms), but unfortunately gives way to alcoholic beverages (30 million liters). This forced Sofia Municipality to take seriously the solution of the problem of dairy supply of Sofia citizens.
At the end of 1939 the mayor Eng. Iv. Ivanov appointed a special commission to examine the conditions for building a dairy plant. It immediately took on the task, but had to take into account the conflicting interests of producers and consumers. Both sides vigorously defended their claims and could not find satisfactory product prices. An efficient role in this direction was played by cooperative associations and the committee logically focused on the possibility of building a dairy plant with their participation. But the cooperatives in the vicinity of Sofia were not well organized, had no material opportunity and professional preparation to support the noble work of the municipality. In this situation, the Commission found the optimal option by focusing on the Bulgarian Agricultural and Cooperative Bank (BACB), which by law, and in practice supported and lended to the cooperative movement in Bulgaria. The bank was sympathetic to the municipality’s proposal and immediately launched a negotiating committee. There was a series of meetings between the two institutions. There were no disagreements and side effects, but ultimately came to the signing of the long-awaited contract. It set out the main directions for the future business. „Sofia Milk Supply Company „Serdika“ was set up with 30 million leva capital. At first, the municipality imported 20 million, and the bank – 10 million. Within two years, BACB was obliged to return to the municipality through the cooperative, a representative of the dairy producers, the amount of BGN 5 million. Thus the founders of the plant would participate with 50% capital. The Management Board of the company was appointed by the municipality and the bank, and there was also a legal advisor from the Ministry of Agriculture and State Property. The Supervisory Board was appointed by the General Meeting. Special commissions woud determine the price of milk in view of the interests of producers and consumers. In the first place, the plant would not be involved in the production of dairy products except but as an exception. The Sofia Municipal Council voted almost unanimously on the signed contract. On May 2 1940, at the invitation of the mayor Eng. Iv. Ivanov was convened a solemn assembly for the constitution of the first Managing Board of the headquarters.
The political change in Bulgaria after 1989 brought serious disruptions to the development of „Serdika“. At the request of the management of the plant with an order of the Council of Ministers in 1991, it was transformed into a single-member limited liability company (EOOD) „Serdika 1“. Since September 1, 1993, „Yoghurt“ Workshop has been purchased by „Danone“ French concern. The same scenario was applied to the „Ice Cream“ Workshop, which since 1997 has been owned by the „Darko“ company. After 1998, a procedure for privatization of other parts of the large-scale dairy plant at the time of socialism was opened. The scope of activity remains almost unchanged and includes the purchase of milk, processing for consumption, dairy production, trade activities in the country and abroad. More modern halls are being built. Although it undergoes major structural changes, the enterprise continues to exist today. The goods it produces, though under another logo, are sold commercially throughout Bulgaria and neighboring countries.
The history of DIP „Komuna“ is rich and interesting. It was established in 1934 as a joint stock company „IDAS“. Owned by four Jewish brothers – Isaac, David, Abram and Solomon Moreno, hence the abbreviated name „IDAS“. It had 8 presses, one galvanotechnics and one foundry. It manufactured metal press products, mainly jewelery. In 1939, the owners left the country and the factory passed under the leadership of the military. The Manager became Colonel Krum Nelchinov. During the Second World War, goods and supplies were produced here for the needs of the army.
With the nationalization of December 23, 1947, the enterprise became a state-owned company and became the DEM „Komuna“. From 1950 to 1954, the „First Gold Factory“ and the „Oxygen“, „Durability“ and „Tuba“ factories were merged into it. New production buildings were built. There were three workshops: basic, assembly and instrumentation. Separate sections of repair and galvanic cover were been opened. Until 1968 „Komuna“ produced toys, zippers, stationery, badges and more. Afterwards it began to specialize in the electronics and radio industry. Electronic calculators „Elka“, air condensers, sockets for electronic lamps, switches, connectors, etc. were produced. The first director of „Komuna“ was Georgi Kostov. After him followed Angel Delev, Hristo Petrov and Ivan Konstantinov.
Since 1976, the company had repeatedly changed its name. For some time it had been „Plant for Communication Equipment Elements“. In 1984 it became a „Plant for Opto-Connectors and Electromechanical Elements“. By decision of the Sofia City Court of 13 May 1991 it was renamed „KOMEL KET“ – Communication Elements and Technologies. Thus, the former „Komuna“ became a sole limited liability company (EOOD) and a self-governing business organization. Four years later, it was transformed into a Single Share Company (SAD), and the management was carried out by a Board of Directors. In 1997 a procedure for the privatization of „KET“ EAD was announced. A Worker-Managerial Society was appointed a buyer. At the end of next year 75% of the shares were privatized. Today the plant continues to exist. Its building fund has not been upgraded at all, and some of the rooms are completely deserted. The production nomenclature includes plastic products, bathroom accessories, heaters for stoves, hotplates and ovens, jewelery, and more. Director is Lilyana Zaharieva.
Together with milk, another main food was bread. The growing needs of the residents of Sofia and the nearby villages could not be satisfied with the existing neighborhood ovens. This problem was put at the forefront of the actions of Sofia Municipality. In the late 1940s, specialists began to look for a suitable place to build a bakery plant. They chose a field in close proximity to the „Serdika“ Milk Plant. In 1953 the construction of the plant was completed and it started working under the name City Enterprise (CE) Hlebozavod № 1 – Sofia. The assortment of production was wide. It included mainly bread and about 50 kinds of snacks. In addition, the production lines for saltsticks and loaf „zemel“, for fine curds, French bread, bread crumbs and dried bread were launched. There were also a few pyroch automates in circulation. A large volume of sweets – biscuits, baklava, cadaife, cakes and pastries were also available daily from the factory. In the following years, the plant’s capacities were steadily increasing. New furnaces, bakeries, assembling and other facilities were installed. This led to increased production and improved product quality. The automaker has nearly 60 trucks of the „Skoda“, „Zis“, „Ipha“ and „Tatra“ models imported from the socialist countries. With them was delivered daily the production to 800 objects on the territory of big Sofia.
The structure of Bread Factory No. 1 was refined and tailored to the specifics of the enterprise. Included 2 production plants and 11 departments that were strictly profiled. Among them, the most important place was „Material-technical Supply“, „Placement“, „Technical Control and Laboratory“, „Production“ and „Plan-Economic“. In the first years the number of workers was between 600 – 750 people. In 1976, they were 865 and in 1983 they numbered 937. Many young people from „Batalova Vodenitsa“ and neighboring quarters worked in the factory. The main professions were beaters, bakers, breeders, editors and formers. Supporting staff included dealers, loaders, shopkeepers, power engineers, carpenters, and more. Workers’ discharges ranged between I and VI, according to years of service. The company also had a night shift and until 1973 was also working on Saturday until noon. The establishment plan shows that wages were between BGN 80 and BGN 155. The director received 200 leva, the deputy director – 190 leva, and the head of departments – 175 leva. Higher education employees had a salary higher by 20 BGN, but they were only 8% of the entire factory. Additional wages were earned for years of service. Everyone also received quarterly premiums. They were given special work and uniform clothing according to an order of the Executive Committee of the Sofia City People’s Council. In the central building there was a large cantine, which fed about 200 people a day. Long-time director of the company was Boncho Stefanov.
In the meantime, the bakery changed its name twice. From 1978 to 1996 it was called „Metodi Velichkov“, and after that under the name „Bakery products – Vazrazhdane“ AD until 1999. On September 10, 1999, it was privatized and in practice its production began to decline. It ceased its activity in 2006. In the following years, the buildings were completely emptied of machinery and technical equipment. Today they are in complete destruction and their final collapse is about to come.
In the 1950s in the area of „Batalova Vodenitsa“ another plant of the food industry emerged. On April 1, 1956, the United Labour-production Cooperation (ULPC) „Hristo Nikov“ was in operation. It was created after the merger of the „StalinL LPC, „Hristo Nikov“ LPC, „Slavyanka“ LPC and „First May“ LPC, all of which were based in Sofia. The production of the new plant included pastry and confectionery products, boza, carbonated beverages, wafer and baking powder, lemonade powder, processing of dried fruit and their sale. Later, the production and marketing of coffee and coffee surrogates, concentrated soups and food specialties were added. Initially, the production of individual items was scattered across the capital. This created a number of problems in transporting goods and loading the store network.
Let me briefly mention the last plant, which was on the territory of „Batalova Vodenitsa“, although its history was later. I am talking about „Metal Constructions“. It was created on 8 April 1980, that is, when the neighborhood does not exist alone. In its structure were included the divisions of the Balkanstroy liquidated scientific-production association. Its main activity was the design, manufacture and installation of buildings and engineering facilities. The company accepted predominantly orders for the construction of load-bearing structures in the construction of industrial and warehouse buildings, refrigerators and commercial shops, the construction of sports centers. Among the most impressive buildings in Sofia are: The Winter Palace, „Emil Markov“ Sports Hall, („Triaditza“, since 1992), „Hristo Botev“ Sports Hall, „October“ Sports Hall and „Bonsist“ Training Hall. In 1996 the plant was privatized and transformed into „Metal Constructions Holding“ EAD. It still exists today under the name „Industrial Construction Holding“ EAD.
The aforementioned enterprises reveal the industrial appearance of „Batalova vodenitsa“. The wide range of goods they produce was obvious. Another thing is also impressive. Thousands of people worked in the factories, and this potential was beneficial to the residents of the neighborhood. Most of them were without secondary education and found their livelihood as general workers and other unqualified professions that were practiced in close proximity to their homes. This trend continued for decades and left lasting memories in the minds of the still living inhabitants of Batalova Vodenitsa.
As students in the 1950s and 1960s, we often visited the „Serdika“ Dairy Plant, „September 9“ and „Hlebozavod“ No 1. Selected specialists took us through the workshops and introduced us to the methods of production. We, with genuine childish curiosity, looked at the machines and the flow lines on which raw materials and finished products were moving. But at the same time, we were eagerly waiting for the end of this „official part“ because it was the best. On leaving, our hosts gave us marvelous delicacies – ice creams, snacks and various pastries. We promised in one voice that we would come back soon.