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Newsletter Απρίλιος 2012

ANALYSIS

Western Greece—Investment Opportunities Abound in the Country’s Western Gate

Western Greece
Renowned for its stunning natural beauty and treasure trove of historic sites, the region of Western Greece comprises the western part of continental Greece and the northwestern part of the Peloponnese. Historically strong in agriculture and tourism, Western Greece is now moving aggressively into new, strategic economic sectors. The region’s economic diversification has, in turn, uncovered a cornucopia of investment opportunities for domestic and international investors alike.

This, combined with a tantalising incentive scheme—40 to 50 percent of the total investment cost, according to the area and the size of the company—gives Western Greece a nearly unbeatable value proposition.

A Region Poised for an Investment Boom
Thankfully, Western Greece has all the ingredients necessary to facilitate sustained, large-scale investments. First of all, the region boasts a strategic location linking the Peloponnese with the mainland Greece and Epirus (it is regarded as the western gateway to the Adriatic Sea and Western Europe).

Second, Western Greece offers two industrial zones: the organised industrial area (VI.PE) in Patras and the industrial park Glaukou in Patras (VIO.PA). In addition to providing investors with turnkey solutions for manufacturing and related industry, the industrial zones offer investors an additional incentive of 5 percent of investment cost.

Third, Western Greece makes transport and logistics easy by means of its world-class infrastructure network. Businesses in the region can have direct access to domestic and international customers via modern port facilities in Patras, the commercial port of Platygiali Astakos, the brand new PATHE highway, and the Rio-Antirio Bridge.

Western Greece is also one of the most important hubs for higher and technical education in Greece.  Local businesses can leverage the internationally minded universities and research centers of Patras, the Patras Science Park and its related Business Innovation Center to their strategic advantage. Likewise, the workforce of Western Greece is among the most highly trained, hard working and multilingual in Greece.

Most importantly, Western Greece is considered one of the most business friendly locations in Greece. Regional authorities, keen to usher investment into key sectors of the economy, offer investors their consistent and unwavering support.

Tourism
The Region of Western Greece is privileged in terms of its natural environment. From protected wetlands to lush forests, jagged peaks to pristine Adriatic beaches, the geography of Western Greece offers some of the most diverse and appealing sites in the Mediterranean. It is therefore no surprise that the Western Greece is rapidly becoming one of the top tourism destinations in Greece.

Yet tourism development in the region has lagged behind demand. Despite its unspoiled natural beauty and unrivalled cultural offering, Western Greece has not fully exploited its full tourism potential. Five-star hotels are scarce, as are conference centers to host scientific and cultural events. Thematic tourism offerings—namely eco tourism, cultural tourism and religious tourism—remain small. Vast publicly held coastal plots remain undeveloped.

Encouragingly, a comprehensive plan to develop state assets and expand the region’s tourism draw is underway, offering promising new investment opportunities throughout Western Greece. The former construction site of the Rio-Antirrio Bridge—a stunning 223,000m2 adjacent to the landmark bridge on the Gulf of Corinth—is slated for concession through public tender. The project aims to development roughly 60,000m2 of new buildings including a 600 bed five star hotel, a conference and exhibition center, a marina, and a maritime industry center.

Nearby, on the western Peloponnese shores of Killini, a 309,750 m2 beachfront plot has also been flagged for high-end tourism development. The property features a 1,200m beach and 1,000 olive trees. Up the coast in the town of Astakos, another 350,000m2 of coastal land—featuring one of the most famous beaches in Western Greece—stands ready for development.

Green Energy and Waste Management
Western Greece enjoys year round sunshine, high Mediterranean wings and countless rivers perfectly suited for renewable energy source (RES) generation. Yet, with the exception of the region’s strong hydropower footprint, much of the region’s capacity remains unexploited. Therefore, as Greece moves aggressively towards its 2020 RES mandates, investments in Western Greece—in both generation and grid enhancement—will play an increasingly important role in the country’s energy strategy.

Similarly, 2020 targets for waste materials create a myriad of new investment opportunities including the creation of modern, integrated facilities for treating and disposing municipal solid waste, recycling centers, and landfill rehabilitation. Funds of €60 million, for example, have been allocated to the area for the development of waste management units in the next 3-5 years. The €24 million Wastewater Management of the Municipality of Patras was included in the Environment and Sustainable Development programme by the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change on January 16, 2012.

ICT and Life Sciences
The clustering effect of Patras’ high-tech sector gives local businesses a leg up in their research and development (R&D) goals and provides a springboard for international expansion. Therefore, international firms focusing on information and communication technology, pharmaceuticals, nanotechnologies, renewable energy sources and chemicals will find that Western Greece is an ideal place for product development, a regional service center or a regional headquarters.

High-tech companies situated in the technology center of Patras benefit from a strategic location, well educated and multi-lingual labour force, local business parks and incubators as well as partnerships with world-class research institutions.

The Institute of Chemical Engineering and High Temperature Chemical Processes (ICE-HT), for example, runs approximately 60 R&D projects with industrial enterprises, universities and research institutes from Greece and around the world.   These projects are funded by national and EU R&D programs and also directly by industrial enterprises.

Food and Beverage
Already an agricultural engine for the country, Western Greece is surging forward with new investments and opportunities in the food and beverage (F&B) sector. Investors can leverage Western Greece’s well-suited farmlands and marine environments as well as its modern transport network to develop high quality F&B products for both domestic and international markets.

Fruits and vegetables, for example, are strong in Western Greece, with approximately 110,000 tons of citrus fruits, 175,000 tons of vegetables and 232,000 HL of wine produced annually. However, there is significant room to expand this production horizontally into new specialty products as well vertically into food processing. Demand is also rising sharply for the organic agricultural products—including Western Greece’s world famous Mavrodafni wine—and investment is likely to surge in this subsector.

Fish farming is another mainstay of the regional economy, with Western Greece’s fish farms comprising an astonishing 12.5 percent of the European Union’s total production in break and sea bass. A new law liberalising the fish farming industry offers unique new opportunities for new investment in an already successful sector of the economy.

Finally, dairy and livestock production in the region are slated to increase steadily in coming years, along with related processing facilities. Recent dairy investments in the new Friesland Campina Unit, for example, have boosted local dairy production sizably, and created opportunities for potential investors. At the same time the region is perfectly positioned to capitalise on growing demand for organic and biological meat in Greece and around Europe.