Antoaneta Bares: We should think long-term about the development of the industrial zones

Antoaneta Bares has over 15 years of professional experience in the field of law and in the management of multiple projects in various economic sectors. She has occupied key and managerial positions in trade companies including in the IT sector and state institutions. She holds a master’s degree in law and is a PhD student in economics at Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”.

Antoneta Bares has been part of the team of National Company Industrial Zones EAD since it was founded in 2009 and has been occupying the position of CEO since March 2017.

- Mrs Bares, NCIZ has been continuously expanding its zones. Is there still keen investor interest in the grounds you offer?

- The interest on the part of investors – foreign and Bulgarian – has not stopped. The National Company Industrial Zones is an operational mechanism for attracting investments. And we indeed do everything possible to create favourable conditions for the business to realize its projects in economic zones with ready-to-use infrastructure. Thus, the entrepreneurs may launch their business faster. In support of this, I will say that some weeks ago we performed a ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of the infrastructure (water, electricity, internet, streets) on the territory of the Zagore industrial zone. NCIZ and the municipality of Stara Zagora are carrying out a joint project over 11.5 ha in the southeastern part of the province capital. And there are already notifications of interest from investors.

There is substantial interest also in the Industrial and Logistics Park Burgas which is a successful project realized by NCIZ and the local municipality. On February 28, 2019, the Council of Ministers took the decision to provide, in the form of a non-cash contribution, seven real estates of private state property from the South Industrial Zone to our company. This non-cash contribution was called for because the existing land plots were used up due to the high demand on the part of investors. There are 35 investment projects carried out there with the overall amount of guaranteed deposits equal to 73 million leva. Then, the number of the guaranteed newly-created jobs is 726.

- Are there zones that the investors show priority interest in?

- Each zone has its own advantages with the location and infrastructure being the most important aspects. We have zones like those in Burgas and Varna that are situated on the Black Sea coast. Our parks in Ruse and Vidin are also preferred because they have access to the Danube river. Yet a priority project is Sofia – Bozhurishte.

- How much do the investments there amount to?

- The contracted investments are close to 530 million leva. The direct new jobs – over 1,500. In the summer of 2019, we signed a definitive agreement with a high-technology Swiss company. It manufactures silicon and plastic prototypes and parts. Until now, this company was a tenant, but they have decided to buy because they like it there. They believe our country is stable and they already have decided to build their own plant.

Regarding the industrial zones, we have noticed that it is not only new manufacturers that enter our market. We also have the expansion of the business of investors who already work in our industrial parks. I can give such an example in our zone, Sofia – Bozhurishte. We are talking about Behr-Hella Thermocontrol which manufactures air-conditioning systems for cars. They are expanding their activity. They are actually tripling it. We are witnessing business clustering.

When a large investor comes to Bulgaria, it is entirely logical that its subcontractors want to locate their businesses adjacent to it. In this way, a common work medium is created in which several businesses operate in one location. This is the so-called shared infrastructure. The expenses are also shared. And in my opinion, this is the better way for developing the respective business project.

- You say that some foreign companies expand their businesses. Does this mean that there is predictability with respect to the economic climate in Bulgaria?

- Nobody would invest in a country where they feel insecure. Our taxes are stably constant, we have low operating costs. In recent months, the economic indicators of the country have gone up, the Bulgarian economy is working in a stable manner. At the beginning of November, the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry issued its latest study regarding the business climate. From it we can see that close to 63% of the surveyed entrepreneurs in Bulgaria expect an improvement of the business climate in 2020. The level of optimism in Bulgaria is rising slightly for 2020 compared to 2019 which shows that there are more companies with positive expectations.

- You are preparing a bill for the industrial zones. What will it contain?

- I participate in a work group under the leadership of the minister of economy, Emil Karanikolov, and the deputy prime minister, Tomislav Donchev. The group is investigating the opportunities to regulate the industrial zones. The objective is for the investors to receive more significant help and more assistance. I believe that it is necessary to regulate the industrial zones. Currently, they are regulated in a piece-wise manner through various legislative acts. Therefore, we decided that it is imperative to work on a law on the industrial zones. And we were supported by the minister of economy, Emil Karanikolov. It is crucial to think long-term, because the emergence of the industrial zones is not a momentary trend but an economic necessity both for the province capitals and the smaller communities.

- During the BalREc 2019 real estate conference that took place in Sofia, you mentioned that NCIZ also has the idea of offering social services in Sofia Bozhurishte economic zone?

- In our zone in Bozhurishte, we are about to finish the design of a building to be a business centre where we will offer social services. As a socially responsible company, we would like the investors in our zone to feel good and we do everything possible to help them. Hence, we have been thinking about constructing there a private nursery where those working in the industrial park will be able to take their children. We plan to have a playfield and a street workout area. Our goal is to have our zones meet the best standards. This, in turn, will encourage investments in new sectors of the economy and in those with high added value.

You can read the interview in Economy magazine here