Author: Ilia Lazarov
Eng. Emil Yankov is a manager “Business development” in the project “Trakia Economic Zone”. He has profound experience in attracting foreign investors and actively promotes the relations with Asian business.
Money.bg speaks with him about Bulgarian and foreign investments, jobs, success, perspectives and challenges in the realization of the biggest industrial project in the country.
Eng. Yankov, what was 2017 for “Trakia Economic Zone”?
It was really successful year, in which there were invested more than 90 million euro and were created nearly 2000 new jobs. We realized the investment of the French Latecoere, which is supplier of Airbus, Germany Company for lighting systems Osram opened its factory, we had also few expansions of investors in the industrial zones “Rakovski” and “Maritsa”, which are part of “Trakia Economic Zone”. We came to an agreement for several projects, which have to start in the near weeks.
What are your expectations for 2018?
We begin 2018 with very positive expectation, expecting growth of investments. It will be a year of Bulgarian investors in “Trakia Economic Zone” – more than 10 Bulgarian companies already announced investments and expansions of their bases.
In 2017 there was a high demand of properties for industrial construction in the region. We expect to keep that tendency and even to increase it during 2018. The interest is really huge – every week we have at least one new inquiry, we constantly meet current and potential investors.
In 2018 we will also observe the tradition in “Trakia Economic Zone” (where there are already working 30 000 people) to create new jobs. We expect opening of about 2000 new working positions. Having in mind the ambitious plans of the companies in this year they can be even more. Only the companies which we are having conclusive negotiations can create about 500 new working positions.
What are preparing Bulgarian investors in “Trakia Economic Zone” this year?
Bulgarian companies already purchased as a total above 100 000 sq. m., which is serious amount for our investors. We expect investments minimum of 20-30 million BGN levs.
They come from different economic sectors – production, logistics, food industry and etc. their stirring is mainly due to the economic revival, which we observe in entire Europe and Bulgaria is part of it.
Do you negotiate with new foreign investors? From which sectors? What are expected investments?
The contracted investments only in January exceed 30 million euro. By the end of the year we expect serious increase of investments.
The biggest interest for investors is in automotive sector. The companies with the most serious intentions are few. One of them produces high-tech head-lights for cars, the other produces parts for the fuel system of cars and the third is German which creates plastic components for the car compartments. We also negotiate with Chinese company from textile industry, which investment may occur by the end of the year.
Most of these companies create high-tech products and mainly need engineers. This is very beneficial for the region. Our idea last year was to attract many high-tech companies, which will produce value-added products in Bulgaria. As their workers are qualified they will receive higher payment.
What does the foreign investor demand in order to come on the Bulgarian market?
Until 2-3 years the main needs were safety, infrastructure, terms, and quality of construction. To this was added quality and quantity of staff.
Do we have enough qualified people in the region to work in the factories?
Even that “Sienit Holding” (developer of “Trakia Economic Zone”) is mainly a construction company, recruitment and training of the suitable personnel has become a priority for us in the last 2-3 years. We undertook a few initiatives with our partners from Job Tiger and “Association for employment of unemployed people – DEMO”.
During the year we started a project for a training and qualification center within “Trakia Economic Zone”. The center will make trainings in a few different directions – pneumatics, hydraulics, electrical engineering, mechatronics and etc., connected with the activities of the companies in TEZ. It is equipped with modern laboratories and software.
For the center will also work some big recruitment agencies, which will guarantee sufficient amount and quality of personnel. The respective investor will choose the most suitable among them and will train them in the center, turning them in its workers.
The problem with the personnel is fact not only in Bulgaria, but also in entire Europe. We hope that the center will operate successfully and will become a working instrument for attraction of new investors.
What kind of people will be trained in this center? Who will be the teachers in the different programs?
There will be trained technical specialists, working in the factories and also unemployed people, willing to obtain the needed qualification in order to start work. The center will be equipped with more than 200 computers and will offer programs and trainings for the regular workers and for managing staff of the companies.
It will be possible the personal of every company to be trained in a specific way, corresponding to the specific needs and requirements of the company. The purpose is to promote the industrial modernization of the region.
The lecturers will be university lecturers, professional high school teachers and also specialists from the business. We try to ensure also foreign experts.
Are you cooperating with other countries with higher background in the development of industrial zones?
We are working in that direction recent years and we have signed agreements with China and South Korea. But Asian market is different from European. Their industrial zones resemble small towns with living premises, restaurants, and recreation zones. They create labour and social atmosphere.
In Europe and in Bulgaria the industrial zones are having purely labour functions, because they are near the cities or in the cities.
We would like to cooperate with more industrial zones in the region – from Romania, Serbia, Macedonia, and Albania. We want to work together pursuing one common purpose – creation of common regional market, in the frames of which the migration of the workers to be easier and simple. This is attainable because the countries in the region have closely related culture and values.
“Trakia Economic Zone” also works with the biggest community in Europe for science and business – the German institute “Fraunhofer”. The institute is the most profound research association for applied researches in The Old Continent.
Are we more attractive than our neighbors for the foreign investors in the industrial zones?
Each country has its advantages. Romania has bigger population, bigger inner market and is closer to Central Europe. Macedonia and Serbia are slightly more flexible, because they are not members of the EU and can afford to attract investors with some serious allowances and incentives. In the EU financial support is not allowed and such practices are not possible.
Bulgaria offers perfect correlation quality – price – expenditures for the investors, as prices for land, price for construction, accessible workforce. Our country approved as a suitable place for investment also due to its good business climate. Together with Romania, our country is preferable destination for most of the investors in the Balkans.
How Asian investors see the country?
Bulgaria is relatively slightly known in the Far East. In “Trakia Economic Zone” we are working in the last 5 years with perseverance and patience to provoke the interest of the Asian investors. We are in constant contact with China, Japan and South Korea; as we go there often to meet local companies.
At the end of last year we opened a logistic hub in “Trakia Economic Zone”, which is responsible for the entire Eastern Europe and China as our idea is it to grow in logistic base for distribution of Chinese goods toward to European Union and also from Eastern Europe to China.
We hope with the forthcoming host of Bulgaria of the meeting of the countries from the European summit from Central and Eastern Europe with China (the initiative 16 +), which will be attended by the Chinese Prime Minister Mr. Li Keqiang, Chinese companies to increase their interest in our country and to invest more actively.