US companies sign up as Dubai’s environment and energy free zone EnPark expands

Five US firms plan to set up in Dubai’s EnPark as the environment and energy free zone is set to double the number of companies from three years ago.

The Energy and Environment Park (EnPark), located in Tecom Investments’ Dubai Biotechnology and Research Park, is aiming to bring on more sector-specific companies to become a “gateway to a growing energy and environment industry in the Middle East”.

The free zone had 32 companies in 2012, which climbed to 52 last year and is expected to reach 64 by the year-end, Marwan Janahi, executive director of EnPark, told The National.

Mr Janahi said he saw a shift start when Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) released its Shams initiative, a five-step plan to make the emirate one of the world’s greenest cities.

Dubai plans to meet 7 per cent of its energy needs by 2020 from renewable sources such as solar power, which will rise to 15 per cent by 2030.

“We noticed that this opportunity wasn’t necessarily for large companies, but really for the smaller businesses,” he said. And so EnPark began searching for smaller firms that had expertise in engineering and understood solar power.

That research led to various roadshows, including a visit to San Diego’s clean-tech cluster for emerging industries.

The five US companies setting up in EnPark are involved in solar energy, waste management and green building. “We’re finding the gap and we’re filling that gap,” said Mr Janahi.

Some of the benefits for companies venturing into free zones include exemption from import and export duties, 100 per cent foreign ownership and procuring visas for employees.

This convinced Prabissh Thomas, founder and managing director of Dubai-based PTL Solar, to move to the free zone. He attributed the growth of his business to the move.

Despite having two other locations in Dubai, he credits his company’s growing fortunes to the free zone location. “I would attribute 80 per cent of my company’s success as being part of EnPark and Tecom,” he said.

Mr Thomas said that one of the advantages was being in a unique cluster which helped for better networking. He discussed striking deals with companies inside EnPark such as providing technology for Enviro and Industrial Solutions ME and receiving manufacturing services from Keza Industries.

PTL Solar was one of the first companies to come onboard the industry-specific area.

In 2007, the company had the basic flexi-desk – a workstation within an office space. For a desk with one visa provided, there is a payment of Dh15,000 annually plus a one-time licensing fee of Dh3,510. For a working space of up to three people, the annual fee is Dh50,000 and six to eight people is Dh100,000 (in addition to the licensing fee).

Three years later, PTL Solar increased its presence taking a 12,000 square feet office space which rendered up to 120 visas. And the company isn’t stopping there. Next year it plans to take advantage of the land lease option to establish a manufacturing facility.

“On a short-term perspective, we will be three times larger in terms of revenue and manpower,” Mr Thomas said, adding that the company anticipates to be worth Dh100 million in just two years.

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LeAnne Graves

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