An independent report published earlier this year and commissioned by the Dubai government said that Expo 2020 will contribute more than Dh122.6 billion to the country’s economy by 2031. The report, by the consultancy EY, also stated that at its peak, Expo 2020 will generate business equivalent to 1.5 per cent of the UAE’s GDP.
Expo 2020 is expected to add almost 100,000 new jobs to the economy. But what impact is the Expo having on UAE-based businesses now that it is just over a year away?
Wolfgang Douglas, Operations Director and CEO of Timberwolf LLC, says that his business is already experiencing significant growth ahead of Expo. Douglas’ business is a fourth-generation bespoke timber provider. It offers products and services ranging from specialist timber, steel design and build applications to bespoke theme feature infrastructure and the provision of supporting elements to construction.
We are seeing record numbers of the back of Expo 2020. We have provisionally agreed tender projects worth up to Dh750 million.
“We are seeing record numbers of the back of Expo 2020. We have provisionally agreed tender projects worth up to Dh750 million. We are seeing huge volumes that are many times over previous years’ trading and we are seeing more than 1,000 per cent growth,” he says.
The English expat says that Timberwolf has established a unique position in the market, giving it an advantage over its overseas and local competitors. As a result, the business has been involved in a number of highest profile jobs here in the UAE, ranging from The Palm Jumeirah Crescent, Abu Dhabi Corniche and the Burj Khalifa to Atlantis The Palm Hotel and Bloomingdales.
Other specialised, large-scale projects Timberwolf has contributed to include La Mer, Dubai Opera House and City Walk.
“When we approach clients, we are able to offer custom, one of a kind, locally manufactured products, constructed using the latest innovations. This includes eco green and fast build technology, which only we offer in the region. Our products include the latest CLT (cross laminated timber) structural technology, which we’re predominantly using throughout the upcoming Expo 2020,” he says.
“We also work with international partners that sign off on QA/QC [quality control and quality assurance] programmes. If we are working with Expo, we joint venture with renowned international specialists, such as Bodino Italy, and use them to guarantee that Timberwolf continues to deliver the highest standards in the market.”
Douglas refers to how Timberwolf develops fast build technology and incorporates new design and build concepts such as light gauge steel and cross laminated and glulam timber. It means that the products are strong and stable with high fire safety standards.
Exploring all opportunities
Timberwolf’s CEO believes that, although there are a multitude of opportunities surrounding the Expo event itself, firms should also look at the developments that are taking place on the back of the fair.
“To be part of the chain doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to work with Expo directly. You just need to ensure that you don’t let the chain pass by and you must invest now. Our work involves legacy work, pavilions, landscape and hardscape work, but most of our business comes through supporting projects such as hotels, hospitals and schools.”
Investing in staff
One area that Douglas believes many companies are overlooking is ensuring that they secure the right talent ahead of an upturn in business as Expo gathers momentum. He likes to take a hands-on approach to recruitment, putting candidates from across the world and the region through rigorous assessment to make sure he finds the very best applicants.
“If you are a local company in Dubai, I would advise that you invest in people and get the best staff that you can source. In the next one-and-a-half years, Timberwolf is in line to experience exponential growth and we are currently hiring every day. We employ around 330 people and we are hiring around 2,500 blue-collar workers through labour supply.
“We are hiring civil engineers, project directors and project managers. We are bringing people in from all over the world but we are also hiring local talent who, without Expo, would have to return home.”
A lasting legacy
While Expo is already significantly increasing Timberwolf’s revenue, its CEO believes that the long-term benefits will push the Dubai economy to the next level. “Dubai Expo will demonstrate to the world that the city can build first-world technology at the lowest taxable rates in the world,” he says.
“The Emirate has first-world infrastructure where businesses can make products here at a fraction of the price of other first-world economies. Dubai has lots of economic advantages and few negatives. The new Expo ethos is indicative of what the next ten years in the country is going to look like and if your business is not green, then it is not aligned to the values of Expo.”