Nestled amid a gentle forest, Dvarčionys is probably the cleanest district of Vilnius. Ever since the 19th century, the identity of this place has been shaped by both its natural treasures and the business subjects that were settled here at different times. Currently, Dvarčionys is going through a rebirth period, with an influx of new residents to its community and the establishment of hi-tech companies.
Industry is not something new in Dvarčionys; the first brick factory was established back in 1888. The business was inspired by nature, with the local quarry providing red clay, the raw material for bricks. In 1940, the brick factory was expropriated and then was turned into a building material plant. Dvarčionių Keramika, a joint Lithuania-Italy venture, was founded in 1994; at some point, it was the largest ceramic tile manufacturer in the Baltic region. Eventually, the ceramicists’ furnaces had grown cold, and in 2016 the company was officially wound up as a business.
Femtosecond lasers stepping in
Streets paved with clay tiles are still there to tell the story of Dvarčionys. Many residents of Dvarčionys moved there to be close to work at the building material plant or the ceramic tile company. The street names hark back to the ceramic-making days as well. Many people who travel to this district do so via Plytinės (Lith. for Brick Factory) street, those who go by way of Aukštupys gardens, navigate Moliakalnio (Clay Hill) street. If you wander the surroundings, you encounter streets named Koklių (Tiles) and Puodžių (Potters). Once you find your way on to Keramikų (Ceramicist) street, you can easily identify the surviving office building of Dvarčionių Keramikos.
After the clay dust had settled, Light Conversion, the femtosecond laser developers, moved into the district. Established in Dvarčionys in 2007, the company is growing, rebuilding the old ceramicists’ buildings, expanding its business, and making laser systems used by the most prominent scientific, medical, and industrial centres the world over. As time went by, Light Conversion’s other investors set their sights on Dvarčionys as well. According to the plans, another laser and laser component manufacturer is slated to be inaugurated in Dvarčionys in 2021.
Bonded through sports, culture, and nature
Ever since its establishment in Dvarčionys, Light Conversion has found common interests with the local community and its association, The Dvarčioniškiai. The first project that got them bonded was the building of a multifunctional sports pitch.
‘We used to have a tired-looking pitch next to the local school, which simply had to be renovated. Through some coincidence, it just happened that Light Conversion was also looking for a place outdoors to play basketball. We joined efforts and built a pitch that has become so popular that it simply could not accommodate everyone who wanted to exercise during the day. Light Conversion has expanded the project and installed lights at the pitch so that people could use it when it is dark as well,’ said Marius Naruševičius, a representative of Dvarčionys residents and the head of Dvarčionys borough, thinking back to the first joint projects to improve the surroundings that were brought to life in association with the laser manufacturer.
As time went by, the bond between the neighbours – Light Conversion and the Dvarčionys community – only grew stronger. The company is the constant sponsor of the Dvarčionys Theatre Festival. This cultural event has been taking place in Dvarčionys for seven years now and has become the town’s calling card.
The laser development company has been taking care of garbage removal from the beach area near Lake Dvarčionys for years. Nearby box garage owners would fill the bin next to the pond with garbage which would overflow within days.
‘Faced with this problem, we came to see Algirdas Juozapavičius, then the CEO of Light Conversion, for a solution. I was very impressed by his attitude: he said, ‘better they do it in a bin rather than the forest’, and saw to it that a second bin was installed,’ says Marius Naruševičius, remembering the laser company CEO’s responsible stance on Dvarčionys surroundings. ‘This kind of neighbour is a bona fide gift. Some people may grumble, but most of Dvarčionys residents are very positive in their comments on the company’s neighbourhood,’ says he.
Sustainable and economically viable
The manufacture of femtosecond lasers and laser systems is an environmentally friendly and sustainable industry. It does not use any hazardous materials or technologies. The crumbling and dangerous buildings and warehouses of the ceramics company have been razed to the ground by bulldozers; the foundations of new laser plants are rising in their stead.
In the words of Dr. Donatas Podėnas, deputy CEO of Light Conversion, bolstering the community is a consistent and focused effort on the company’s part. During the planning of the development and design of new buildings, the company consults representatives of the local community, what services or facilities the residents or their activities would need.
‘Sustainable interaction with the neighbours is a necessity, not a luxury. We try to foster a communal spirit and good relations. In 2018, with the community’s blessing, we initiated a campaign to have the name of Keramikų bus stop changed to Lazerių (Lasers),’ Mr. Podėnas says. He notes that, in addition to emotional neighbourship, which is definitely an important factor, one should not forget the economic benefits to the surrounding areas. ‘Employees choose to live closer to work and buy real estate in Dvarčionys. Once Eksma Optics sets up shop in the nearest future, new jobs will be created for the local residents to potentially apply for,’ Mr. Podėnas believes.
Once, Dvarčionys would be perfectly quiet at noon, because most of the residents were employed elsewhere in the city. As the town becomes increasingly busy during the day, a need for new services has emerged.
For instance, you can now have a gourmet business lunch in the very heart of Dvarčionys, and then a glass of wine at the Greita Sraigė in the evening. Once upon a time, tiles made Dvarčionys famous across the Baltic States; now, ultra-fast lasers are putting Lithuania on the world’s map. That is how productive and entrepreneurial the Dvarčionys environment apparently is.