The Jordan Industrial Estates Corporation published a tender in 2002 to develop an industrial estate in Aqaba. We won the tender that required us to make arrangements with the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority. We did that in 2003. Thereafter we went through the formal proceedings which was to submit a master plan for development of the project and that went on in 2004 and 2005. We have been present since 2003 but fully operational since 2005.
The concession first stated that we would develop and market the area for about 60 hectares and we started to market that at the end of 2005. We completed selling or leasing that land at the end of 2007. The construction of individual projects started in 2007 and will be completed in 2008/2009. So we are in the middle of the first stage, but the land has been completely sold out and now it is a matter of getting the businesses up and operating.
As a result of that development we were granted rights to another 110 hectares. So we went through the same process and had the master plan approved and started physical development and marketing about three months ago. We are developing about 50 hectares each stage. As we progress we should be going to the final 50 hectares by 2009. Already we have sold 10-15 hectares in the past three months.
During the first concession we had 10 years to complete and we are actually doing this in six years and we now have an amended concession that should be completed within another 10 years to do the next 100 hectares. However, I believe this will take four to five years and therefore a 20-year programme will take 10 years to complete, so development has been very good.
We do not believe in standard buildings and so in principle they are customised. As of today we have about 40 signed contracts. Buildings for three or four have been standard, while everything else is customised. The principle is to find out what the customer wants and then do that. The customer can buy land and build for himself, he can lease land and build for himself, he can ask us to build on his land or the customer can ask us to build his building. Therefore we have a broad range of commercial possibilities. The largest group buys land and builds for themselves.
On the industrial side, we want to get a share of the metal and engineering companies as well as high-tech companies that are moving from Europe and the US. Already companies in that category are present: one does industrial lasers and is based in Germany and another does seismic testing and training for the oil and water industries.
As for metals, we have a company that makes large elements for power stations and a company that armours SUVs. We are negotiating for a steel pipe forming company. These are examples of “metals engineering”.
We are interested in plastics and downstream plastics converting. We have a shoe factory which makes consumer products and we are also looking into food processing. We also have a warehouse and logistics centre. We have a company that is looking to do fiberglass boats. Also we are negotiating with a big engine building company. Therefore we have diversity in the medium and light industry sectors, with a condition that they have a light environmental footprint.
We have some logistics companies here and we have some big projects planned that would take advantage of the airport when the cargo handling gets going. We also do back-up services for the tourism industry. One tourism company will have its laundries, food catering, and machine shops at Aqaba International Industrial Estate (AIIE). We also have a commercial centre, meaning a filling station, mini market and a coffee shop which will not only serve us, but the airport as well. We have the antennas of all the mobile phone operators.
Since each job is so specific, the companies provide the onsite training. We are not in the real estate business. Our business is industrial development. We help customers with the business of getting them the land and get all the proper papers in place. The government gave us all the services necessary to process the papers as we think they need to be serviced a certain way for international investors to be involved here. We also install all utilities; including electricity, streets and light. then the customer signs with the local utilities for supply. Therefore we have a great deal of autonomy.