Polonia – a vast, still untapped resource for growth of Polish economy
By Marek Konopnicki, Ph.D., Board Advisor of US-Polish Trade Council
I am a member of a sizable group of Polish professionals who left or were asked to leave Poland during the communist era. Fortunate to be equipped with a solid education (thank you Poland), decent command of foreign languages (thank you Poland and parents…), we were given an opportunity to establish our new home here (thank you USA), and to establish ourselves professionally (thank you USA). Many members of the group have achieved professional and business success within the US and internationally. While comfortably integrating into the social, professional, cultural, and political environments of this country, with many becoming US citizens, we have never abandoned our Polish heritage, and always maintained such contacts with Poland as were possible, and a vivid interest in the events in Poland. Composition and size of that group have been enhanced by American professionals of Polish descent, and by ever increasing number of recent arrivals from post-communist Poland – dynamic younger Polish professionals who are trying to make their mark here.
Members of that group are ready, able, willing and highly motivated to provide assistance to Poland by sharing their experience and knowledge as well as by cooperating with interested individuals, business entities, organizations, and government bodies in Poland. Our familiarity with the culture, language, academic, technical and business environments of both Poland and the United States represents a unique asset that can be useful in increasing effectiveness of efforts to build science, engineering, technical, and academic bridges between Poland and the US.
US-Polish Trade Council is an organization that brings together individuals that I described above as it is fully focused on issues that concern us. Through a variety of initiatives such as, for example, Top 500 Innovators program or Poland Day in Silicon Valley, it allows us to transition our interests and concerns into tangible actions. I am grateful and proud for an opportunity to contribute to its activities.
Looking at the big picture, an effort to date by the government of Poland to constructively engage professional Polonia has not, unfortunately, been broad, intensive, perceived as essential, or showing significant success. I am hopeful the new special office dedicated to the engagement of Polonia that was created this year within the Office of the President of Poland will represent a small step in the right direction. I hope it will be followed by more such steps. As they say in the US “they can talk the talk but can they walk the walk?” I hope they can and they will. We are ready to be called upon to assist whenever our help might be useful. It occurs to me that our help might be particularly timely in view of large numbers of Poles leaving the country to seek better prospects within more advanced countries of the European Union.
Dr. Marek Konopnicki graduated from Warsaw Technical University (EE) and earned his Ph.D. (Physics/Optics) from the University in Rochester. He has 30+ years experience in leadership and execution of development of complex electro-optical systems for imaging, remote sensing, and directed energy applications for ground, airborne and space platforms. His other research interests include physics, photonics, laser, and quantum optics. He has also been interested in potential applications of emerging technologies in practical systems. Most of Dr. Konopnicki’s professional career was spent with the Advanced Technology Center of Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company in Palo Alto, CA. Prior to joining Lockheed Martin, Dr. Konopnicki worked for the US Air Force Research Laboratory on developing high energy lasers and systems for directed energy applications. Dr. Konopnicki has always been actively involved in fostering productive industry-university relations and served on corporate advisory boards of the Physics and Applied Optics Department of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, The Institute of Optics of the University of Rochester, College of Optical Engineering of the University of Arizona, and of the College of Engineering of the University of California at Santa Barbara. Dr. Konopnicki held teaching appointments at the University of Rochester, St. John Fisher’s College, Rochester Institute of Technology, University of California Berkeley, and San Jose State University in the areas of physics, lasers, modern optics, and electro- optical sensors and systems.