Kaya Tuncer, a Turkish-American engineer and entrepreneur, returned to his native country of Turkey in 1989 to undertake the development of the Aegean Free Zone. Under his direction, the Aegean Free Zone was able to attract 7% of the total FDI in Turkey during the past 10 years. Today, it is a leader among the free zones in Turkey in terms of attracting foreign investment and utilisation of advanced technologies. The cumulative trade volume since the zone’s inauguration has reached $17bn.
The Aegean Free Zone, a modern industrial park located near Izmir, is Turkey’s most successful high-tech industrial park. It employs 13,500 people and when complete will provide jobs for 30,000 people. In addition to providing employment, the zone provides a clean, safe, and attractive environment for all who work there. All employees have access to on-site medical and dental clinics, sports facilities, a world-class child care centre and attractively landscaped common grounds.
A prominent Turkish industrialist wrote the following after his first visit to the Aegean Free Zone: “I was expecting a well-planned free zone project. What I saw today is not an industrial zone geared for profitability only. It is a project where social responsibilities, including education of the coming young generations of the world, makes an important part of the scheme.”
The Aegean Free Zone began operations in 1991 and now houses more than 350 companies, including 71 foreign firms. A private-sector company, ESBAS (the Aegean Free Zone Development and Operating Company), is responsible for developing the zone’s infrastructure, providing all utilities and food services, and leasing land parcels or buildings. The zone’s status as a campus enables operations to continue on a 24-hour basis. In 2004, the zone generated a trade volume of $3.2bn and at full occupancy in 2012 will generate a yearly trade volume of $5bn.
Over the years, strategic marketing efforts and high-quality infrastructure and service have attracted major foreign and multi-national manufacturing companies to the Aegean Free Zone including: Hugo Boss (producing men’s apparel), Delphi Automotive (manufacturing electrical wiring systems for the automotive sector), FTB (manufacturing aircraft fasteners), Delphi Diesel (manufacturing pumps and injectors for diesel motors), Enercon (manufacturing blades for wind-energy power plants), Eldor Electronics and Pulse Electronics (manufacturing high-voltage television transformers), PFW (manufacturing liquid fuel tanks for Airbus) and Skorsky (logistics centre for helicopter parts).
In June 2002, ESBAS became the first Turkish free zone development and operating company to obtain the ISO 9001 Quality Management Certificate. Efforts to obtain the certificate show ESBAS’s commitment to maintaining the highest quality work environment for its employees and to offering high-quality services to companies operating in the zone.
In addition to the many advantages common to all free zones – tax incentives, elimination of customs duties, minimisation of bureaucracy – ESBAS makes available for all free zone companies: a 250-seat conference hall with simultaneous translation and multi-media capabilities, seminar rooms, a showroom where companies display their products, video-conferencing facilities, internet services, and an antique car museum.
Anyone working at the zone may send their child to ESBAS’s Child Care Centre, which has the capacity to care for 240 children between the ages of one-and-a-half months and six years. In the centre, there are 16 classrooms in which children are grouped according to age. The facility features special story and music rooms, a library, a large indoor playroom, an amphitheatre for shows, and outdoor playgrounds that include large sand-play areas, a bicycle path and a children’s vegetable garden. With the support of ESBAS, the centre’s director – who has a master’s degree in child psychology – offers classes in child rearing and development free of charge to all interested parents who work in the zone.
ESBAS operates Kitchen 6000, the largest and most modern food facility in the Aegean region; it can provide up to 15,000 meals per day with 24-hour service. Cafeteria, restaurant and catering services are also available for companies in the zone. Kiosks with snack services and adjacent open-air seating areas are located strategically throughout the zone. No smoking is permitted in the cafeteria or any facility where ESBAS employees work.
Open-air sports facilities are located throughout the zone for use by all who work there. The ESBAS Concert and Sports Hall was built to serve companies and employees in the zone by providing a variety of enriching activities from concerts to sports competitions (basketball, volleyball and table tennis) between companies. Like other facilities in the zone, it is much-used.
Located on a hilly 550 acre (220 hectare) site with views of the surrounding mountains, buildings in the zone are placed so as to preserve the existing pine groves and trees. Only non-polluting manufacturing firms receive permits to operate in the zone. Upon entering the Aegean Free Zone, something stands out: there are no cars parked along the streets (all facilities have on-site parking), streets lined with trees (over 10,000 trees have been planted in the zone in the past 14 years), well-maintained grounds and strict adherence to sign regulations. All this helps to create a pleasant atmosphere for visitors as well as for those who work there. Future plans include a sculpture garden, miniature golf, and the possibility of a hotel and a hospital.
THE AEGEAN FREE ZONE CURRENT STATUS (December 2004)
Developed land area: 1,652,000m2
Completed building space: 375,000m2
Number of firms: 346 (71 foreign)
Year-to-date trade volume: $3.2bn
Inception-to-date trade volume: $17bn
PROJECTIONS AT COMPLETION
Yearly trade volume: $5,000,000bn
Total investment: $500m