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Entering 2020 With a Look Back – a Word From Our CEO
Dear colleagues and friends,
2020 has arrived. This number looks a little magical, and it’s also nearly 20 years since I’ve joined the Klaipeda FEZ. While I was certain from day one that our community will reach 1 billion in total turnover one day, I didn’t expect to celebrate this achievement twice: no one anticipated to have the euro as our new currency 20 years ago. And while I already know that we have wrapped up another record-breaking year at Klaipeda FEZ and I don’t see any reasons for not having one more stats increase this year, all of this is achieved not because of free-riding on the good economy, but strategic thinking, pivoting, adapting, innovating and always searching for extra opportunities instead.
As some of our colleagues who were at our Christmas dinner know from better economists than me, the world has quite a few unanswered questions for 2020 and beyond. And so it would be unwise for me to promise a prosperous year for all. We are entering challenging and uncertain times. The good news is that such times reward the freshest thinkers and the hard-working doers, and our community is built by and for such people.
Let me give you a few examples from 2019. I believe most of our expansions and new investments last year were driven by innovations in products, processes and fresh thinking. GRH International, the latest addition to our community from Monaco, are true innovators in construction materials and they are launching both production and R&D operations in our territory creating 50 jobs. Also, the Estonian shipbuilding and metalworking company BLRT Grupp has decided to invest 20M EUR into commercial, warehousing and manufacturing premises quoting our infrastructure and our location among the main reasons. It has also operated within the restricted territory of the Port of Klaipeda, and so their move to our free zone is a sign of broader thinking and expanding ways of serving customers.
We also witnessed an investment plan by Vingės Logistika: the company doesn’t simply expand their premises. They saw an emerging need for extra value-added services in the market that their new facility will accommodate. Baldai1.lt, our addition to the FlexStart portfolio, is a double novelty: it’s our first e-commerce company, and they are probably the first e-commerce company in Lithuania operating out of a free economic zone.
Our plastics giants – NEO GROUP, Indorama Ventures and Retal – have also been innovating and investing heavily in technologies and solutions for the circular economy. Clearly, the industry is witnessing a major shift, but I find it remarkable that such companies seek sustainable solutions together with our local scientists, researchers and business developers.
I should also mention Glassbel and Pack Klaipeda among the fresh thinkers. The former is eyeing solar panels as a new potential market, while the latter is under regulatory pressure from the EU, but it is already testing new products, materials and customers such as heat and sound insulation and even the automotive industry!
Dancer Bus is a success story on its own: something that started as a dream is now fully certified, the fully electric buses ready to hit the streets both in Klaipeda and in the whole world. Not that the busses are working – they are amazing and, I would say, ripe for exports.
We have also revealed our FlexStart 2 project last year. I will be honest with you: at one point, we already had this building announced on our channels, but we were a little hesitant to launch the actual construction works as this is a significant investment in a rather uncertain global environment. Now though, as the dust has settled, I can confirm that FlexStart 2 has been greenlighted and we’ll have some news on this matter in the first half of the year.
2019 was also a strong year community-wise, both in and beyond our territory. We have launched the FEZ Exchange, a successful series of professional events for our investors, where they share their knowledge and expertise. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a joint team of professionals from various companies successfully took part in the first hackathon of port technologies. And finally, we do understand that we have neighbors, namely the southern districts, and so we worked closely with them both in terms of public transport and a vision of co-existing in a better environment in the future. At the same time, our community invests heavily in technologies and methodologies that benefit both the immediate and the global environment: here I can emphasize Mestilla that spent the last 5 years in researching and deploying the latest scent removal technologies.
Though it doesn’t come as a surprise for me as I’ve been witnessing this shift from the first years of operations of the Klaipeda FEZ, it is becoming increasingly obvious that our community is not a pure manufacturing territory: indeed, while many of our companies started as manufacturers, they now host R&D, excellence and design centers, as well as laboratories, which employ local talent to build new, global and competitive products and services here in Klaipeda. This transformation makes me certain that the future is very bright for our community as we can pivot, innovate, and grow here, while our talent pool caters to the complex needs of today’s business.
2019 was also a year of deeper partnerships. We had numerous mutual ideas, initiatives and projects with our key partners such as Klaipeda ID, Invest Lithuania, Klaipeda municipality and others. Not only we realize that we’re on the same boat – I think it became obvious that we can go many extra miles to support one another.
So I want to thank all our customers, partners and our core team for an exciting year full of discoveries and pursuit of becoming better. I know that we are a hard-working, fresh thinking and innovating community, and so I’m pretty sure even more awaits us this year!
See you soon!