Tamara Vladimirovna, with what results of the SEZ “St. Petersburg” ends the year?
Tamara Rondaleva: With positives. From an investment standpoint, the year turned out to be a breakthrough for us. In the summer before SPIEF, we received several large investors, whose total investment in projects exceeded 40 billion rubles. And a few days ago we had an Expert Council, after which four more companies joined our residents, their planned investment is about 10 billion rubles.
This high interest of large companies in our sites is the result of systematic and fruitful work. SEZ “St. Petersburg” celebrated its 17th anniversary in the outgoing year, for a project of this level; This is not a deadline, but nevertheless, great deals come to us and this indicates that we have achieved maximum confidence among investors. In addition to our residents who have already implemented their projects or are still in the process, we have another 37 applicant companies that have applied to “join” the SEZ.
Have the sanctions against Russia affected the tactics and strategies of the development of the SEZs?
Tamara Rondaleva: If we talk about the situation of the economy as a whole, we see that it is going through another crisis, and there are negative phenomena both in the Russian and world economies. The world economy is changing before our eyes, and in the short term we will see how a new economic model will be formed, new leaders and goals will appear.
But any crisis is still a moment of opportunity, and we start from this principle. Initially, when the special economic zones were just being created, the stake was placed with a foreign investor. That is, we compete for projects with sites in Eastern Europe and Asia. The arrival of foreign companies at Russian sites not only provided additional tax revenue or jobs, but due to localization, the cost of production decreased. Now we mainly focus on national companies implementing projects in the field of import substitution and high technologies.
Now SEZ “St. Petersburg” is preparing for the launch of the third site in the “Parnassus” area, but there are still vacant sites on the “Novoroorlovskaya” site…
Tamara Rondaleva: In Novoorlovskaya, the area of free territories does not exceed 10 hectares. In “Parnassus” a suitable area for investment projects will be 26 hectares. And I can say that it is very little. For example, following the results of the Council of Experts in mid-December, 4 new projects were adopted, these companies will be located on the Novoorlovskaya site. Therefore, we are looking at opportunities for further expansion, we are considering the possibility of opening a site not only in Parnassus, but in other places as well. In general, for us the topic of space is very relevant. If you look at the special economic zones in other regions of the country, you will see that there are thousands of hectares, these are huge territories. And we are located within the limits of St. Petersburg. There is no free urban land in this volume. Therefore, we are very prudent in the use of each site.
Photo: SZPPK press service
For example, on one hectare, we recommend that an investor build a building with an area of at least 5-7 thousand square meters. Investors treat with understanding, we ourselves work under the given conditions. For example, we will soon open an Innovation Center with an area of 18.6 thousand square meters, which is built on a two-hectare plot.
What role will this Innovation Center play in the ZEE?
Tamara Rondaleva: It will be a finished industrial site. Not all industrial companies need to build their own workshops. There are many innovative high-tech companies that need premises from 1 to 3 thousand square meters. The Innovation Center has 6,000 square meters of office space, while the remaining 12,000 square meters are open-plan industrial areas. The center was built in a little over a year, in the near future a commissioning certificate for this facility will be received and we will be able to accommodate residents there. It will house the Gazpromneft Industrial Innovations Research Center, which will develop technologies for the petrochemical industry.
How can you now attract residents to the SEZ? What is St. Petersburg’s competitive advantage?
Tamara Rondaleva: It’s no secret that there is a healthy rivalry between Russian SEZs for investors. The package of tax and customs benefits offered by the regions is roughly the same. Everywhere, regional authorities give investors the “green light” and maximum support. Against this background, St. Petersburg has a number of competitive advantages. In particular, the SEZ “St. Petersburg” allows companies to quickly establish product sales due to the proximity to the main logistics centers. A very important factor is that in St. Petersburg companies can find highly qualified personnel for almost any area of activity. SEZ sites are located within the city limits, so that companies can attract specialists who live in the immediate vicinity of the company for entry-level positions. If we talk about highly qualified personnel, then St. Petersburg has the strongest educational and scientific school, so there are specialists of any level on the labor market. At one point, this became one of the deciding factors for pharmaceutical cluster companies, which require many highly-skilled employees.
What are the characteristics of the St. Petersburg pharmaceutical cluster?
Tamara Rondaleva: It has developed historically, first Biocad and Geropharm came to us, then Pharm Holding, Vertex, Pharmasyntez-Nord, Novartis, Cytomed and others joined us. Now we have more than 20 residents whose activities are related in one way or another to the pharmaceutical industry and medicine, both medicines for the treatment of oncological diseases and medicines from the list of Vital and Essential Medicines are produced. The success of existing residents attracts new investors to our sites: companies see that all residents are working stably, that they have sufficient capacity, the staffing issue is closed, and they come to us. At the same time, companies from other medical related areas are opening their companies here, for example, a group of medical products and medical equipment is being actively formed.
We also have companies in various industries: instrument manufacturing, microelectronics, food industry.
Photo: SZPPK press service
St. Petersburg is the first of the regions to offset the costs of creating a SEZ and will reimburse the funds under the Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation. What is this tool?
Tamara Rondaleva: The Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation allows the return of funds to the budget that the subject has invested in the development of the ZEE. This happens due to tax deductions for residents. Under the compensation mechanism, companies transfer part of their taxes to the federal budget and part to the regional one. Our investors provide solid tax revenue; In 2021 alone, companies paid more than 16 billion rubles, of which 7.5 billion rubles were paid to the federal budget. So far, we have submitted a request for reimbursement of 4.4 billion rubles. But the final amount of the refund to the regional budgets will be formed once the tax period has ended. The funds will start flowing in early 2023. In my opinion, this is a very good mechanism. The St. Petersburg authorities actively support the SEZ, for example, budget financing for the development of the Parnas site will amount to 2.8 billion rubles. The ability to recover these costs is, of course, a win-win mechanism for the city.
What are the plans of SEZ “St. Petersburg” for the coming year?
Tamara Rondaleva: In the first quarter, we hope, the Parnas site will be attached, and the Innovation Center will also begin to receive residents. Our main plans are related to providing working conditions to our residents. There are no non-professionals in these companies, despite all the challenges, they are expanding, developing, scaling. For us, this is the most important thing.