The phrase “industrial park” brings to mind the idea of opportunity, profit and entertainment growing organically in a purpose-built environment. This is especially evident in the world’s most famous industrial and commercial zones.
It seems people who have similar interests tend to congregate naturally – learning from while competing against one another. In the process, they create systematic connections with one another and their environment. Contrary to expectations, such an environment can also be cultivated, as seen in Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP).
Commercial zones and industrial parks boasting impressive business credentials are now commonplace, but even against this competitive backdrop, SIP still stands out.
HIGH-TECH START-UP HUB
SIP regularly tops global developmental indices, and is one of the top-ranked industrial parks in China. It has a long record of remarkable firsts, its status as the pioneer experimental zone for reform and opening up and innovation in China being just one example.
Today, SIP is ready to become a hub for high-tech innovation, attracting hungry start-ups. The management touts its “soft-power support” that includes pro-business services and a liveable environment as keys to its success.
One company that has benefitted is GENEWIZ, a global leader in R&D genomics services, headquartered at SIP.
“The government of SIP is practical and efficient, with services such as SIP One-stop Service Center and SIP Enterprise Development Service Center to solve many complicated administrative affairs,” said Ms Zhang Yan, senior project manager, GENEWIZ China & Suzhou Lab.
Liveability is another factor that has attracted many businesses to SIP. These include the likes of Emerson Climate Technologies (Suzhou), Eisai, and Eslite Bookstore (SIP). Meeting housing requirements was singled out as a key benefit to being based at SIP.
“Talents can rent apartments with good facilities at below-the-market prices. This is great for newly-arrived job seekers,” said Genewiz’s Ms Zhang.
THE FINER THINGS
The softer aspects of life at SIP – perhaps a surprising factor at an industrial hub – are also pull factors.
“We selected Suzhou as the first city for Eslite’s development in mainland China because the leaders of Suzhou attach great importance to the cultural development and the growth of creative industries in the city,” said Mr Lang Zhengzhong, senior mainland operations director and supply chain director, Eslite.
Playing a role in nurturing a vibrant arts scene is the Suzhou Culture and Arts Centre, with facilities such as a performance hall, IMAX theatre, ballet theatre and art museum.
SIP has been graced by international productions of Riverdance and the Broadway musical Cats. According to SIP, enhancing the artistic literacy of the public is part of its mission, which it feels helps community residents create a rich cultural atmosphere.
Enhancing the city’s vibrancy are events like the Suzhou Jinji Lake International Half Marathon, Jinji Lake Dragon Boat Race, SIP Culture and Sports Festival, Suzhou Jinji Lake Biennale, and iSING! SUZHOU.
BEST OF MULTIPLE WORLDS
SIP’s recipe for success appears to be its unique combination of practical benefits, a great environment and rich culture.
“We settled in SIP not only for the pleasant natural environment and strong industrial base, but also for its devotion to assisting foreign companies to develop here,” said Mr Tom Zofkie, vice-president operations, Asia and Middle East, Emerson Climate Technologies (Suzhou). Emerson has been in China since the 1970s, and set up its SIP operations in 2002.
Practicality and efficiency are the watchwords of SIP, and so is the devotion noted by Mr Zofkie. It has been this way since China-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park opened up, nearly 25 years ago. The history of SIP is well known, and deeply felt by companies based here, especially pioneers here such as Delphi.
“SIP is an important economic cooperation project between the governments of China and Singapore. After over 20 years of development, SIP is a successful model of international cooperation and one of China's fastest-growing development zones with international competitive advantages,” said Ms Huang Lixia, managing director, Delphi Technologies Suzhou.
If numbers can tell a story, these might sum it up for you: over 4,000 foreign-invested companies, 875 Chinese hi-tech firms, and 18 publicly listed companies are based at SIP.
According to Mr Zofkie, SIP achieved record success last year, with the local GDP registering ¥238.8 billion (S$48 billion).
Indeed, companies based at SIP seem to echo the track record of their home, if Samsung Electronics (Suzhou) Semiconductor is any indicator. “In 2017, the total import and export volume reached US$28.8 billion, accounting for nearly 33 per cent of the total amount of SIP’s trade,” said Mr Li Chengchun, deputy general manager, Samsung Electronics (Suzhou) Semiconductor.
Watch this video to see how SIP has evolved.