ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT – HISTORICAL LANDMARKS
Located in a favourable area from the geographical point of view (at the contact between the Western Plain and Hills, on Crișul Repede River) the city of Oradea fulfilled since Medieval Age favourable conditions for the carrying out of an intense economic life. The statement above is strengthened by the fact that the oldest documents which make reference to this city are of economic nature, they especially handle the regulation of customs encountered in the city. The economic and commercial activity is acknowledged by the existence of old fairs, such as the fair at the end of thirteenth century destroyed by Roland, son of Toma of Borșa kinship or the fair mentioned in 1373, with an even older age.
The erection in the Middle Ages of imposing constructions (stone ring fortress, the cathedral inside it etc.), as well as the favourable location of the city at the crossroads of important commercial roads in the near vicinity of the stretched out Hungarian plain represented favourable elements for the intensification of economic life of the city. Therefore, it appeared at that time a large number of workshops of processing stone, wood, iron and other metals, while the development of commercial activities – in close connection with the local productive activity – is acknowledged by documents which regulate the customs regime and fair multiplication regime.
The existence of multiple economic activities in the city is acknowledged beginning with the second half of the sixteenth century by the presence of guilds, each of them with a distinctive profile of activities. Among the oldest guilds there is the guild of ironsmiths to which somewhere around 1560-1565, the mayor of the city recognized the license; short time afterwards are mentioned the guilds of locksmiths, brokers and saddlers. At the beginning of the following century there would add the guild of tailors and the guild of furriers.
The Ottoman reign over Oradea, between 1660-1692, although it is not very well known from the documents investigated so far seems to have been yet favourable to the development of various industrial branches and a rather optimistic economic picture. The installation of Austrian administration after the long siege over the city, between 1691-1692, translated by a multiplication of the economic activities carried out which tended to equal the weight of agrarian activities, still prevailing. For instance, a document of 1722 in which it established the prices of different products mentions not less than 15 crafts carried out in the city during that time: butchers, shoemakers, makers of coarse-stuff peasant coats, fair tailors, mixed tailors, furriers, strap makers, soap makers, button makers, rope makers, locksmiths, wheel makers, carpenters, goldsmiths and coopers.
For instance, a document of 1722 in which it established the prices of different products mentions not less than 15 crafts carried out in the city during that time: butchers, shoemakers, makers of coarse-stuff peasant coats, fair tailors, mixed tailors, furriers, strap makers, soap makers, button makers, rope makers, locksmiths, wheel makers, carpenters, goldsmiths and coopers.In the following years other crafts added, such as those related to the processing of leather (tannery), shoe making, making of sieves and bolters etc. To all these adds a wide range of other acknowledged activities which can be integrated in the category of services and satisfaction of current day-to-day needs, by bakers, millers, potters, carpenters, ironsmiths, clock-makers, lathe men, armourers.
Beginning with the second half of eighteenth century the passage from the small crafty workshops to factory industry accelerates. The guilds continued to operate during this period as well, but gradually they would turn into associations and the craftsmen (especially after 1860) would be absorbed in enterprises and factories.
The diversity of factories was large, producing agricultural machines (Penger and Rozsaly), brick (not less than 8 factories functioned at the end of nineteenth century), alcohol (beer – Dreher-Hagenmarcher, spirit of wine – Leder and Kalman, Moskovits Mor, wine – Füschl etc), shoes and boots (Moskovits Farkas), artificial fertilizers (Oradea Mare factory), soap (Rothbart Adolf Ede), glassware and porcelain (Deutsch K.I.) etc. According to a census of 1900 in Oradea there were a number of 2 408 enterprises served by 2 642 workers, 4046 auxiliaries and 994 apprentices. Three decades later, in another census, carried out in full world economic crisis, there were a number of 2735 industrial and commercial enterprises.
In the order of the weight held in the overall economic life of the city stand out the food industry, the chemical industry, the textile industry, the printing industry, the construction materials industry, the metallurgical industry and mechanical engineering industry, the leather and shoes industry and the wood processing industry. Înfrățirea/Twinning).
The outbreak of the Second World War and then the establishment of Communist regime generated serious mutations at the level of economic life. On 11th June 1948 the law of nationalization of the main production means was enforced, in the first stage the factories and workshops were nationalized, followed by hospitals, pharmacies, cinemas, restaurants, shops, houses etc. Then annual plans of production were imposed (for the years 1949 and 1950), and then for intervals of 5 years (five-year plans), in parallel sustained efforts were made for the modernization of old installations and the foundation of new production units. The emphasis was laid on the mechanical engineering industry, the energetic industry, iron and steel industry (in 1962 started the construction site of the plant Alumina) and chemical industry (the units that existed before 1945 merged in 1948 in two large factories, respectively Sinteza and Transilvania), machine tools industry (several metal processing workshops would be grouped in 1945 in Joint-stock company Phoebus, its name being changed after nationalization in
An industrial branch which knew a spectacular development in this period was the light industry by the shoes factories Solidaritatea, Arta, Crișul, confections factory, weaving factory, Miorița etc. The food industry was represented by milk, meat industrialization units etc., sugar units, oil units, canned meat units, vegetables units etc.
Forced industrialization and export destination of a large part of the production obtained at local level made that beginning with the years ’70s in the entire country were felt the effects of a powerful economic crisis with profound implications in all the sectors of public life.
After 1989 the industrial live of Oradea knew multiple changes, the most significant ones being related to the closure of large factories and plants and the appearance of many private companies with a wide field of productive activities.