The export volume of Turkey’s free zones has remained fairly stable over the past half-decade. What steps can Kocaeli Free zone take to increase its annual export volume for going forward?
Yes, in Kocaeli Free Zone there is a heavy presence of shipbuilding and yacht-building companies, but right after the world global economic crises in 2008, the maritime business has been completely destroyed. Therefore, in Kocaeli Free Zone, companies which had until that time been very productive saw their productivity in yacht and ship building deeply decreased; so therefore we cannot mention an increase in export; rather, we can talk about how we can “save the day”.
Kocaeli Free Zone is well-positioned to attract foreign investment on the back of the region’s reputation as an industrial hub. How does Kocaeli Free Zone leverage industry and transport infrastructure?
From a transport infrastructure point of view, this is the one of the most developed region in Turkey as well as in Europe, therefore we don’t have any problem in transportations or in terms of the infrastructure in transportation, this region is well-developed. But in order to increase the industry and the trade in the region, Kocaeli Free Zone is not the only factor: other industrial parts of the region are also very important. As a hub, as a whole, the biggest contribution to the Turkish economy or Turkish export is created by this region.
How did the Kocaeli Free Zone become a regional hub for shipbuilding?
In this region, at least 35 ports are already working, therefore it is already a hub. The excellent access to the sea that we have, and the transport infrastructure I mentioned earlier, make us a natural fit for shipbuilding.
What kinds of technology transfer would Kocaeli Free Zone like to attract from foreign companies?
First and foremost, we would always like to attract maritime business technologies, maritime-related business technologies, and shipbuilding technologies. This is our priority.
Are there any barriers for foreign companies to enter to Kocaeli Free Zone?
No, at the moment in terms of the liberal economy, Turkish government put into act every liberal legal frameworks therefore we don’t have any barriers. The only barrier is political ones because neighbor countries have some political conflict. We are waiting to finish these conflicts.
Can you define the kind of business community that investors can expect to find in Kocaeli free zone and organizations and services provided to them?
The businesses located here are the ship and yacht-building companies, therefore we are heavily related to maritime business. The services provided by the Kocaeli Free Zone administration, or Kosbaş, include electricity, water, natural gas – full services. From garbage collection to a fire department, we have everything.
In terms of its geographic location, what are the strategic advantages of Kocaeli free zone in terms of accessing important international markets?
Yes, again, Kocaeli Free Zone has well-developed infrastructure in transportation, in communication, and as an industrial hub which can reach the target markets, especially in Europe. At least 60 or 70 percent of Turkish total exports are carried out by companies located here in this region. So it is not a problem to reach to international markets from Kocaeli.
What are the soft incentives, such as to access skilled local labour, language translation facilities, and a positive family environment, that Kocaeli Free Zone provides or could provide to new investors?
As I told you before, this is a well-developed region. It is not an only industrial hub. It is also a hub of sciences and R&D. There are big institutions undertaking R&D activities here, so human capital quality is very high in this region. There are schools which offer education in English or other languages located in this region. Foreigners can easily find international schools and international hospitals or whatever they need. This region is highly developed in terms of satisfying the needs of an international community. Another advantage of this location is that it is very close to Istanbul. Istanbul is a mega-city where every artistic or cultural need, or needs in other areas, can be satisfied. We are very close to Istanbul, so we can meet all the wishes and expectations for foreign people living here.