From the oldest times, Zalău was an important economic center for this part of the country. A chronicle from the 17th century mentions for the first time the occupations of the town’s inhabitants: harness makers, potters, wheelwrights, shoemakers, butchers, tailors, blacksmiths, carpenters, hatters and, last but not least, gunsmiths. After Transylvania was annexed by the Habsburg Empire, the city knows an economic decay as a result of the infusion of Western products to the detriment of the indigenous ones.
The industrialization process has made its presence from the beginning of the 20th century. It is at this time that the red stone quarrying starts on Meseş Mountains, there are founded two mills that use steam power, a brick factory whose development was facilitated by the existence of good quality clay near the town, and many others. At the same time electricity is introduced in Zalău.
After 1918 there is an upward economic trend so that in the socialist era, the town ends up having a wide range of industries that remained even in the current period such as metallurgy and machine building industry, wood processing, rubber processing industry, food industry, textile industry, etc. After World War II, nationalization led to the disappearance of private property, Zalău being subjected to a process of forced industrialization.
After 1989 in the economic landscape of Zalău appeared a multitude of activities from the tertiary sector, with private capital, which indicates a healthy economic development based on demand and supply. The main economic activity in Zalău is the industry, with a higher share in the manufacturing sector:
- Metallurgy (Silcotub SA)
- Rubber processing (Michelin Romania SA)
- Woodworking (Bellinea SRL)
- Machinery and equipment (Rominserv Valves Iaifo SRL, Rom Dinarom SRL)
- Glass Fiber (West Co Impex SRL)
- Clothing (Uniconf SA)
- Metal Products (Fraven SRL; Electro Grup SRL)
- Electrical instalation (Ianus SRL)
- Recovery of recyclable materials (Remat Sălaj SA)
- Construction Works (Drum Inserv SRL)