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From Site Selection magazine, May 2016

Top Investment Promotion Agencies



The Best to Invest Top IPA Awards recognize the professionalism and preparedness the leadership and staff of the winning IPAs demonstrate day in and day out. This is one of the few rankings Site Selection awards based on largely subjective criteria, and we take that responsibility very seriously. To ensure the credibility of the rankings, the editors of Site Selection joined with the Board of Directors of the Global FDI Association and a select group of international site consultants from every market to judge investment promotion agencies from every region of the world. Those honored as the Top IPAs of 2015 accumulated the most points in voting based on the following criteria:

  • Most professionally responsive to inquiries;
  • Staff possessing the best knowledge and language diversity;
  • Offering access to user-friendly databases of sites and incentives (general and sector-specific);
  • Readily available information on timing expectations of permitting and other processes;
  • Access to recent investors in the region who can vouch for the area and agency;
  • Best reputation for protecting investor confidentiality;
  • Reputation for after-care services;
  • IPA’s website: easy to navigate, wide breadth of data; cleanest, most efficient design.

“Investment Promotion Agencies (IPA) play a crucial role in harnessing global capital flows,” notes Conway Chief Analyst Max Bouchet. “Globalization creates chaos, but IPAs go against the current. They increase information transparency and support the ‘invisible hand’ in allocating the capital efficiently.”

Bouchet continues, “The most effective IPAs develop proactive and data-driven investment attraction strategies. This ranking recognizes the ones that are best equipped to professionally and confidentially respond to the needs of expanding companies, maximizing efficiency and earning the trust and respect of decision-makers across the globe.”

These are the agencies making the biggest impact on the regions they serve and the workforces so reliant on their efforts. We congratulate all of this year’s very deserving winners, and in particular CINDE, in Costa Rica, and IDA Ireland, who were not only named a Top National IPA, but also won the overall Best to Invest Award for total projects per capita in their regions, a remarkable achievement.

Eastern Europe


  • Slovenia boasts a well-educated workforce. Forty percent of the population between the ages of 30 to 34 have completed post-secondary education or higher. More than 70 percent of the population speak two or more foreign languages, including English, German and Italian.
  • The country was recognized as the fastest growing Innovation follower by the European Innovation Scoreboard. In 2014, it’s estimated that the share of gross domestic expenditure on R&D in Slovenia reached 2.39 percent, above the EU average, with 77 percent of total funds provided by the business sector.
  • Slovenia’s transportation infrastructure includes more than 24,200 mi. (39,000 km.) of roads, including 435 mi. (700 km.) of highways; 1,243 mi. (2,000 km.) of railroads; three airports and the Port of Koper.

  • In 2015, exported goods from Turkey reached $144 billion while goods coming into the country reached $207 billion.
  • Turkey’s booming labor market includes more than 29 million young, welleducated and motivated professionals. Approximately 610,000 students graduate each year from more than 183 universities, while approximately 350,000 high school students graduate from vocational or technical high schools.
  • Turkey’s corporate income tax rate is 22 percent, down from 30 percent. The government offers tax benefits and incentives in Technology Development Zones, Industrial Zones and Free Zones, including total or partial exemption from Corporate Income Tax, a grant on the employer’s social security share and incentives.


  • A study by the Brookings Institution found that Izmir is the second fastest-growing metropolitan economy in the world.
  • Izmir is the third biggest province and has the second largest commercial center in Turkey.
  • Izmir’s traditional exports include: Clothing (12.4 percent), Agriculture and Animal Products (11.3 percent), Food and Beverage (11.1 percent), Machinery and Equipment (9.2 percent), Chemicals and Chemical Products (7.3 percent), Motor Vehicles and Trailers (6.8 percent), Basic Metal Industry (6.5 percent), Textile products (5.6 percent).

  • The Aegean Free Zone opened in 1990, becoming the first manufacturingbased modern free zone in Turkey. It also is the first Turkish free zone to be developed and operated by a private-sector company, ESBAS, the Aegean Free Zone Development and Operating Company.
  • The Aegean Free Zone is located on 550 acres (223 ha.) in Gaziemir, Izmir. There are 175 companies in the Aegean Free Zone, 105 domestic and 70 international. Total trade volume generated in 2015 was $4 billion, and the overall trade volume generated since the establishment of the Zone is $62 billion.
  • More than 18,000 people are employed in the Aegean Free Zone. This accounts for one-third of the employment generated in all 19 free zones in Turkey.

Asia Pacific


  • A top global economy, Korea is ranked no. 4 in the World Bank’s 2016 Doing Business report.
  • In a move demonstrating both maturity and stability of South Korean competitiveness, the nation’s corporate tax credit rate for R&D investment was lowered, but extended for three years, until December 2018.
  • Korea continues to promote green growth. The OECD reported that in 2015 the country launched its second five-year plan and emissions trading system while boosting public investment in green technology.

  • Malaysia is among the top 20 economies in the world for ease of doing business according to the World Bank’s Doing Business report. In 2016, Malaysia is ranked no. 18.
  • Malaysia is a member of the 10-nation ASEAN Economic Community and the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement currently being negotiated.
  • The standard corporate tax rate in Malaysia is 24 percent, though deductions for local companies can lower the rate to 19 percent. Incentives are available to certain industries including manufacturing, IT services technology, biotechnology and environmental protection and energy conservation.


  • The Hong Kong workforce is plentiful and well-educated. The Hong Kong University of Science & Technology was ranked no. 4 in Asia in the 2015-16 QS World University Rankings. The city has two universities in the world’s top 50 and five in the top 200. The Hong Kong University of Science & Technology’s EMBA program ranks second in the world in Financial Times EMBA Rankings 2015.
  • Hong Kong sea and air cargo hubs account for almost a third of exports in and out of Mainland China. In 2015, Hong Kong handled nearly 4.4 million tons of airfreight.
  • Hong Kong has one of the most tax-friendly economies in the world, according to the 2016 Paying Taxes study of 189 economies.

  • Shanghai has attracted more foreign headquarters than any other city in mainland China. In 2014, annual foreign investment reached just over $18 billion, an increase of more than 8.3 percent and the 15th consecutive year of growth.
  • Shanghai Port’s import and export volume hit $1.14 trillion in 2014, accounting for close to one quarter of China’s total volume.
  • By the end of 2014, Shanghai became home to 490 regional headquarters of multinational companies, 297 investment companies and 381 R&D centers.

Latin America & Caribbean


  • Costa Rica offers ports on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, and Free Trade Agreements providing access to over 57 trade partners and two-thirds of the global GDP.
  • Ninety percent of electricity in Costa Rica is generated from clean, renewable sources.
  • Telecommunication infrastructure in Costa Rica provides 100% redundancy. The country has the highest penetration of mobile devices in Latin America at 151 percent, even higher than the US.

  • Nicaragua plans to invest more than $10 million in renewable energy projects in 2016, installing thousands of solar panels in areas not connected to the national grid, and installing a wind farm on Corn Island.
  • The Nicaraguan workforce is young and dynamic — 76 percent of the population is under age 39. The 3.2 million workers in the country are considered productive, educated and stable.
  • Nicaragua’s economy is among the freest of the world according to the Economic Freedom of the World (EFW) report, published by the Fraser Institute. In the 2015 report, the country is ranked in 37th out of 157, with a score of 7.40 out of 10. The report analyzes such factors as levels of personal choice, ability to enter markets, security of privately owned property and rule of law.


  • The nation boasts the highest rate of English speakers in Latin America (15 percent.)
  • Over the past decade, Panama has been one of the fastest growing economies worldwide. According to the World Bank, average annual growth was 7.2 percent between 2001 and 2013, more than double the regional average.
  • Panama’s top personal income and corporate tax rates are 25 percent. Other taxes include a value-added tax and a capital gains tax.

  • Bogota has a population of 7.6 million and a gross domestic product (GDP) of US$90 billion.
  • Colombia has the fourth best business environment in Latin America, according to the World Bank’s 2016 Doing Business survey.
  • Bogota boasts a redundant, high-quality telecommunications infrastructure. Currently, more than half a dozen private providers offer complete corporate telecommunication solutions. The city is connected by redundant overland connections to five international underwater cables.

Western Europe


  • Ireland is the only English-speaking country in the Eurozone. The Irish economy grew at 5 percent in 2015, the fastest rate in Europe.
  • Ireland experienced 13 percent growth in exports in the first 3 quarters of 2015 compared to same period in 2014. The country’s main export markets are the EU and US.
  • The Government’s Information Communications and Technology (ICT) Action Plan for high-level ICT skills is designed to double the output of honorslevel graduates by 2018. Working in conjunction with industry, third-level institutions will also provide conversion courses to fast-track honorslevel graduates from other disciplines into ICT.

  • Portugal ranks no. 23 in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2016 report.
  • Portugal’s top corporate tax rate is 23 percent. Other taxes include a value-added tax.
  • In 2014, Portugal’s FDI inflow reached $8.8 billion.


  • Saxony-Anhalt leads the Eastern German federal states in FDI according to a study by Ernst & Young published in‎ 2015
  • Saxony-Anhalt's economy is characterized by international major companies and small and mid-sized enterprises (SME). SME play a major role in Saxony-Anhalt's economic landscape. They create a strong network of employers in Saxony-Anhalt. Such companies account for three quarters of all employees and two-thirds of all sales.
  • Saxony-Anhalt has a highly educated workforce with graduates from two major universities in Halle and Magdeburg, 8 colleges and 26 research institutions.‎

  • Monocle Magazine ranked Copenhagen as the most liveable city in the world in 2008, 2013 and 2014.
  • Medicon Valley, spanning Greater Copenhagen and Skåne in Southern Sweden, is one of Europe’s leading life science clusters. Copenhagen Capacity and Invest in Skåne recently revamped the website, offering a searchable database of 460 companies and organizations, and more than 20 science parks, research centers and incubators.
  • The Copenhagen Airport was declared the best airport in Northern Europe at the World Airport Awards 2015, and has the most intercontinental, European, Scandinavian and Baltic connections of all the Scandinavian airports.

Africa & Middle East


  • Owing to several key free-trade agreements, Morocco offers investors duty free access to 55 countries representing more than 1 billion consumers and 60 percent of world’s GDP.
  • Morocco’s 16 universities and 170 private higher education institutions graduate 40,000 students annually, including 10,000 engineers.
  • Thanks to business reforms, Morocco moved up five positions in the 2016 Doing Business Ranking compiled by the World Bank. Morocco is ranked no. 75 out of 139 economies.

  • The Department of Trade and Industry (dti) is working with other national and provincial government departments creating the Special Economic Zones Programme, investing millions in revitalizing 10 state-owned industrial parks located in under-developed and former homelands.
  • South Africa was among the top 50 nations in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) in 2015. The nation ranked no. 49 out of 140 countries.
  • The top corporate tax rate is 28 percent. Other taxes include a value-added tax and a capital gains tax.


  • As the Middle East’s largest and fastest growing Free Zone, DMCC is the authority on trade, enterprise and commodities in Dubai — home to over 12,000 of the world’s leading businesses of today, and tomorrow. Established in 2002 as a strategic initiative of the Government of Dubai, DMCC facilitates trade and supports businesses through the DMCC Free Zone, commodity exchanges, legal and regulatory frameworks and its real estate offering.
  • The World Bank ranks the UAE no. 31 out of 189 economies in the 2016 Doing Business data.
  • There is no minimum capital requirement for establishing a business in the UAE. The county has flexible labor regulations and non-salaried worker costs are considered moderate.

  • Sharjah has three deep-water ports — Port Khalid, Hamriyah Port and Khorfakkan Port — providing access to the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Gulf. The three ports have a combined capacity of 2.4 million containers.
  • Sharjah’s Free Zones offer such incentives as: 100 percent freehold ownership for foreigners, 100 percent repatriation of capital and profits, exemption of import and export duties, competitive property and warehouse leases and no income tax.
  • Sharjah’s manufacturing sector represents 33 percent of the UAE total manufacturing sector.

Adam Jones-Kelley
President of Conway, Inc.

Adam Jones-Kelley

Adam Jones-Kelley serves as President of Conway and Publisher of Site Selection magazine, having been with the company for nearly 20 years. Adam is a featured speaker at events around the world and a regular contributor to Conway's various publications.


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