Throughout history, Kocaeli has been a gateway for Europe, the Middle East and Asia as well as a crucial trade centre for the Eastern-Roman empire and the capital of the Kingdom of Bithynia.

Today, along the commercially active Black Sea and Marmara Sea shorelines, Kocaeli boasts five ports and 35 industrial docks, making it a logistics haven and an opening to the global markets. The main transportation routes form an intercontinental passage. Neighbouring one of the world’s largest metropolitan centres, Istanbul, and close to two international airports, 45km and 80km from the city centre, Kocaeli is home to approximately 1.3 million people and is one of the most densely populated cities of Turkey with 344 people per square kilometre. It is the richest province in Turkey with a GDP per-capita level of $7565. The Turkish navy’s home base is also situated in Kocaeli, demonstrating the province’s strategic military importance.

Advertisement

Industry-based economy

The defining characteristic of Kocaeli, however, is that it is a “city of industry and investments”. Almost without a match globally, 73% of Kocaeli’s GDP is generated from the manufacturing industry. The province’s industry-based economy accounts for 13% of Turkey’s industrial production; 22% of its intermediate goods, 10% of its investment goods and 3% of its consumer goods are produced in the province. Kocaeli produces the equivalent in value-added to the total of Turkey’s 59 provinces and has a GDP equal to the total of 25 provinces.

Automotive hot spot

In the past few years, the province has developed into a hot spot for the automotive industry, with investments by the sector’s big names, such as Ford, Hyundai, Honda and Isuzu. The premier league of the tyre and rubber sector (Goodyear, Pirelli, Lassa and Bridgestone) are also in production here. Today, Kocaeli hosts 1200 industrial investments, 108 of them established with international capital. Turkey’s largest enterprise, Tüpras Petroleum Refinery Plant, is also located in Kocaeli and the province claims 27% of the national chemical industry.

Eighteen of the country’s 100 largest enterprises are also based in Kocaeli, and another strong indicator is that the province collects 17%-18% of the national tax revenues.

In terms of commerce, 45,000 firms are active in Kocaeli and it has five shopping malls serving the area. Kocaeli also has strong potential in terms of foreign trade. Exports exceed $7-$8bn and imports are equal to $17-$18bn. These are reflected in the high volumes of goods seen in local ports and roads, illustrating Kocaeli’s strategic geographical importance and logistics.

Kocaeli’s local industry is certified with national and international quality awards. The province’s point of reference and its leading organisation, Kocaeli Chamber of Industry, has been awarded both the National Quality Award and the EFQM’s European Quality Award.

The president of Kocaeli Chamber of Industry’s executive board, Yilmaz Kanbak, compares these recent successes to those of nations rather than cities. A selection of these include: seven active organised industrial zones (OIZs) out of 15; three technology parks; and two free zones.

Technological advantages

Mr Kanbak adds that the province is now preparing for investments involving higher technology and higher value added in addition to heavy industry. These advantageous investment areas are next to Turkey’s biggest market, Istanbul, and are considered the most developed industrial areas closest to the EU, the Middle East and Caucasus. These areas have been so successful that FIAS (Foreign Investment Advisory Service) has named the Gebze Organised Industrial Zone as an examplary OIZ.

Kocaeli’s two universities, home to scientific research centres and 50,000 students, play an important role in meeting the demand for human resources: 7452 students graduated from university in 2005; 211 students are ready to begin their professional careers after finishing Gebze Institute of Higher Technology; and 32,149 students from 43 technical vocational high schools have been trained to meet the demands of the industry’s intermediate personnel.

Kocaeli Chamber of Industry’s secretary general, Hamdi Dogan, stresses the available infrastructure opportunities, such as transportation, electricity and natural gas, which enhance Kocaeli’s investment potential. Industry’s water demands are met by the Yuvacik Dam, he says, and the telecommunication infrastructure provided in Kocaeli is above national standards.

Turkey’s only hazardous-waste incineration plant is also found in the province, a great advantage for an industry striving to achieve international environmental and production standards. The chamber’s efforts have also led to the establishment of the Industrial Waste Market, enabling reutilisation of industrial waste to contribute to the economy. Mr Dogan highlights the importance of the Environment Awards’ role in raising environmental awareness.

Kocaeli Chamber of Industry has put a lot of efforts into determining the city’s vision for the year 2023. With the participation of the local administration, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the general public, this vision was established as “the Industrial City That Lives and Nurtures”.

Alongside its industry, the province is striving to develop its tourism, including watersports along the beaches of the Black Sea, as well as winter sports, with a ski resort in the hills of Kartepe.

Archaeological treasures testifying to Kocaeli’s historical importance may prove an added attraction for tourists seeking culture. The archaeological, ethnographic and naval museums reflect this historical wealth. Other cultural aspects include the world famous silk carpets that are made in the small town of Hereke and the growing trend of horse breeding.

The Fine Arts Faculty at Kocaeli University, Kocaeli Municipality School of Music and the city theatre all add colour to the province’s artistic life. Plays, performances and various art works can be seen at the two theatres and three culture centres. Kocaeli Chamber of Industry, under the sponsorship of industrial enterprises and consulates, organises classical music and jazz concerts to improve the quality of the local social life and its attractiveness within this industry-based city. The foreign direct investments to the province help the internationalisation of its culture.

Kocaeli also provides a variety of sporting activities thanks to its well-developed facilities. The Körfez motor-racing track hosts national events and Kocaeli is also not far from Turkey’s newest race track, the Istanbul Park, which recently hosted international Formula 1 races.

Flag of Honour

Kocaeli is already considered as a European city with its ‘Flag of Honour’, a prestigious award (the second in a series of four awards) presented by the Council of Europe. One of Turkey’s 13 metropolitan municipalities, Kocaeli is being developed in a balanced manner due to sound provincial planning.

Having been devastated by the 1999 earthquake, by restructuring its development and supporting a move out of the city centres, the province is setting an example as a sustainable competitive economy and Turkey’s window on the modern world.

Interested parties should contact: Mr A Hamdi Dogan a Kocaeli Chamber of Industry.

Tel: +90 262 315 8000

Fax: +90 262 321 9070

E mail: hdogan@kosano.org.tr