Plovdiv Deputy Mayor Stefan Stoyanov expects two or more investment projects to follow up on a Bulgarian Investment Forum in Istanbul on January 26, 2023. Stoyanov was on the Bulgarian delegation to the International Business and Investment Forum in Istanbul, organized by the InvestBulgaria Agency to bring together business people and local and central government officials of the two countries for discussions on business and investment opportunities.
Stoyanov hopes that the real results will come several months from now when new investments will be possible. He expressed optimism about “good news likely in the second half of the year.
“Turkiye has a large industrial sector and at the same time it has a strong economic connection with the EU. The more hi-tech Turkish companies need representation on the internal market of the European community and also want to produce as companies inside the EU as well. They struggle with high inflation, high interests and other factors that are holding back the Turkish economy. The more hi-tech companies whose products have a high value added and pay well, are interesting for us but some of them are not aware of the opportunities that Bulgaria offers. That is why it is important to have business forums as the one in Istanbul and it is also important that the regions are active in the process,” said the Plovdiv Deputy Mayor.
He believes that what can attract more Turkish investors is better preparedness at local level, well-organized industrial zones and adequate work with potential investors.
Stoyanov has multiple examples for successful investments in the Plovdiv area which, together with Trakia Economic Zone, has emerged as one of the largest industrial zones in Southeast Europe. He said that despite the crises in 2022, last year was one of the most successful for the region with regard to new investment, and the prospects for 2023 are also promising as tens of new factories are under construction in Plovdiv and the wider area.
“The ecosystem in the region is well developed and a lot of people work there. The production businesses among employ over 72,000 people and the expat community in Plovdiv has swelled to over 25,000 people and counting,” the Deputy Mayor said.
He expects that a newly opened air service between Plovdiv and Istanbul will be an additional factor for further growth in business relations with Turkiye. The service is operated by Pegasus Airlines.
Stoyanov believes that a hurdle to foreign investments in Bulgaria are insufficient investments in the infrastructure of industrial zones. “If we want a stronger economy, we need to invest more in the industrial zones across the country,” he said.
– How do you think the International Business Forum, with focus on the automotive industry and healthcare, organized by the InvestBulgaria Agency (IBA) in Istanbul went ?
The business forum attracted a lot of interest from local companies and industrial zones and I can say that it successfully promotes Bulgaria as an investment destination. However, the real successes will come in a few months, when we would eventually announce the entry of new investors into the country. At the business forum, I personally held several individual meetings with potential investors, on the second day we also visited some of them with representatives of IBA and Trakia Economic Zone. I am optimistic that we will have good news in the second half of the year. We also used the forum to meet with two companies that are already making investments in the Plovdiv region and are about to be certified as Class “A” investors. I hope that IBA will continue with this initiative and that such business forums will be held more often, especially in the main regions that we attract investments from – Western Europe and North America.
– Many Turkish companies are developing activities in Bulgaria. How can our country attract more Turkish investors?
Turkey has a large industrial sector, at the same time it is very economically connected to the EU. Their more technological companies need to have representation in the domestic market and to produce also as companies in the EU. At the same time, their economic situation is not very good – high inflation, high interest rates and other factors make their economy difficult. More high-tech companies that make products with higher added value and can pay better wages are interesting for our country, but some of them do not know about the opportunities in Bulgaria. Therefore, it is important to have such business forums more often and for the regions to be active. On the other hand, we must be well prepared at the local level, have enough organized industrial zones and adequately work with potential investors.
– The municipality of Plovdiv is relatively well known to Turkish investors. What makes it attractive for them?
That’s right, dozens of Turkish companies are already operating in the Plovdiv region and are doing well. Plovdiv and the Trakia Economic Zone have established themselves in recent years as one of the large industrial zones in Southeastern Europe. For more than 10 years, we have been working together with all municipalities and industrial zones in the wide region of Thrace. It doesn’t matter to us whether the investment is in one municipality or another, because every new workplace works for the entire region. We already have hundreds of examples of successful Bulgarian and foreign investments. I can even say that 2022, despite the crises, emerged as one of the most successful for the region in terms of new investments. Our forecasts for 2023 are also optimistic. Dozens of new plants are currently being built in the city and the region. The most gratifying thing for me is that we can now say that we have a new strong Bulgarian industry that is doing well in international markets and competing successfully in the biggest markets. One of the good examples from last year is the Bulgarian bicycle manufacturer Maxcom, who started a partnership with Pierer Group and is currently investing in a new factory for electric bicycles, which will be one of the largest in Europe. Amer Sports have just announced a new investment in Asenovgrad and are on their way to becoming a leading global ski manufacturer. The Czech company BTL is building a large plant for medical equipment. Leader 96 is expanding, Liebherr opened a plant for concrete mixers and there are many more examples.
The ecosystem in the region is very well developed and many people work here. Over 72,000 people are employed in the manufacturing sector in the district. There is no such concentration in Sofia either. The expat community is now over 25,000 strong and growing.
The city is growing and the business services sector is also growing very fast.
– On February 18, the new flight line Istanbul – Plovdiv of the Turkish airline Pegasus Airlines was launched. Do you think that this will contribute to the even more dynamic development of tourism in the city?
That will be very useful. I am sure that very soon the flights will also increase. We’ve been waiting for this connection for a long time. And the companies we met in Istanbul are ecstatic. In fact, the line is next to the airport in the Asian part and is very close to most of the industrial areas, and this makes it very easy for companies.
– Are there obstacles for foreign investments in Bulgaria?
I would not say they are more than the ones existing in other EU countries in Eastern Europe. But of course part of our job is to constantly work to make it easier for potential investors. One of the problems I see is underinvestment in infrastructure in industrial areas. Municipalities do not have enough funds for this, and on the other hand, it is not a problem for the state to maintain an annual fund to invest in these areas. If we want a stronger economy, we need to invest in more industrial zones in the country. Many of the mayors want to make their own industrial zones, but they need help.
– What developments do you expect after the forum in Istanbul?
I expect that by the end of the year we will announce at least two new investments in our region, as a result of the meetings we had there.