ROOM FOR GROWTH

Sharjah 2015 | ENERGY & INDUSTRY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Mohammed N. Al-Hazzaa, Director General of the Emirates Company for Industrial Cities, on the Emirate's industrial capabilities, attracting companies to the city, and expectations for the coming year.

Mohammed N. Al-Hazzaa
BIOGRAPHY
Mohammed N. Al-Hazzaa attended Central Michigan University for both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Industrial Management. After university, he became an Assistant Plant Manager at Petromin Lubricating Oil Company, before moving to Saudi Basic Industries Company (SABIC) in 1991. In 1993, he became the General Manager of Manufacturing and Projects at Adwan Chemical Industries, then General Manager of Saudi Development Company, before taking up his current position in 2005 as Director General of Emirates Company for Industrial Cities.

What were the strategic reasons behind the establishment of the Emirates Industrial City?

The Emirate of Sharjah has 19 industrial zones and two free zones. The Emirates Industrial City was created in 2005 as part of the Sharjah government's strategic plan to provide alternative locations to the existing zones in order to accommodate new industries and existing industries that are expanding. I believe that we have the necessary infrastructure and facilities to attract and accommodate as many industries as possible. The Emirates Industrial City is 100% privately owned by investors, whereas industrial zones in most other places are government or semi-government owned through a freehold long-term lease. Additionally, there are no hidden charges and running costs, nor are there any taxes on a company's exports to the GCC, as is the case in most other free zones.

How does the Emirates Industrial City help retain industries in Sharjah, and what more can be done by the Sharjah government to support this?

We are proud and happy with our collaboration with the government officials in Sharjah, specifically HE Marwan Al Sarkal of Shurooq and HE Sultan Abdulla bin Hadda Al Suwaidi of the Economic Development Department. The existing industrial areas are individual plots owned by individual people, and they are scattered around Sharjah, most of them located near residential areas. Thus, there is no room to expand, and as industries cannot grow their operations, there is the risk of them leaving Sharjah. The Emirates Industrial City is the solution to this problem, and we are making sure that we attract as many foreign and local investors to our zone by giving them better facilities and more room to expand. I believe that when it comes to the involvement of Sharjah's government, it is necessary to develop the rules and regulations in a way to better accommodate the changing nature of the industrial sector.

What goals have you set for the Emirates Company for Industrial Cities for five years from now?

We are trying to add value to the remaining two square kilometers of land in the Emirates Industrial City through building facilities and attracting investors. So instead of earning revenues through land sale, we will earn from land lease, which gives us a higher return than selling the land. We believe there is room for expanding the Emirates Industrial City, and we have been approached by developers. We hope that we will find other similar locations in Sharjah and the GCC so that we can develop more Industrial Cities, because the Emirates Industrial City is just our first project as Emirates Company for Industrial Cities. For this expansion, we would welcome strategic partnerships.

What are your expectations for the Emirates Company for Industrial Cities and for the Emirates Industrial City for 2015?

After the first quarter of 2015, we are optimistic. When the World Expo was announced, there was a huge jump in costs and demand in real estate, and prices started to go crazy throughout 2014. In the last quarter of 2014, the prices started to level out again, and that is the way we like it. It is not good to have these sorts of fluctuations, because they are very sharp. We believe that it will be good, not because of land sales, but land leasing. Perhaps the prices might come down in a few years, like they did in 2008. I think 2015 it will be about adding value to what we already have and leasing, and I believe that the people are starting to take things more slowly and are prepared to lease for a few years and see where the economy is heading.