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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Governor Touts St. Pete as IT Center

ReutersSt. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko
DAVOS, Switzerland — St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko said her priority this year would be to attract high-tech companies in an attempt to make her city the country's technology and automotive capital.

Matviyenko, speaking in an interview on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum on Friday, also said she had no desire to succeed President Vladimir Putin in elections next year.

"We have a new automotive cluster, and we think that the next cluster in St. Petersburg will be high technology," Matviyenko said.

Matviyenko said the creation of a free economic zone and IT parks were aimed at winning over large foreign IT companies. Some are already coming, including Hewlett-Packard, which said just last week that it would open a research and development facility with dozens of staff.

High technology "will tap into the huge intellectual potential that the city has today," Matviyenko said. "We have 300,000 scientists. We have a great number of scientific and economic schools."

Ford, General Motors, Toyota and Nissan have built or are building car assembly plants in St. Petersburg, and other car giants are believed to be on the way. Matviyenko said she had focused on foreign carmakers first because they not only brought jobs and investment, but also management expertise that she said was rubbing off on local companies.

The country's northern capital received nearly $3 billion in foreign investment last year and was looking forward to matching or exceeding that amount this year, Matviyenko said.

She dismissed the suggestion of a slowdown in investment ahead of State Duma elections in December and the presidential vote in early 2008. "We don't have that problem in St. Petersburg because St. Petersburg has a stable political situation," she said.

Russian media have suggested that Matviyenko might be a candidate for Putin's blessing as his successor, and her appearance at the forum of world business and political leaders at Davos did little to dampen the speculation.

Asked whether she wanted to become president, Matviyenko said: "No I don't want to." She paused and then added with a throaty laugh: "And don't plan to."

She insisted that her task at hand was to develop St. Petersburg and its economy, and that was all she wanted to focus on these days.