Dubai Airport Free Zone near airport terminal 2. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai Airport Freezone has been named the world’s top economic cluster in a report by the Financial Times’ Foreign Direct Investment (fDi) magazine.

Jumeirah Lakes Towers (JLT) Freezone, was also ranked 11th globally in a strong showing by the UAE, which is still proving an attractive proposition for global companies keen to establish a presence in the region.

The survey, which is carried out every two years, is based on several factors including growth and expansion plans, the presence of high growth industries, transport services, infrastructure development and economic potential.

“Free zones are a major driver of economic development and inward investment worldwide, and their importance will only be highlighted by any impending global slowdown as companies seek to get the best value out of their overseas facilities,” said Courtney Fingar, editor of fDi Magazine.

According to Fingar, the Dubai Airport Free Zone stood out in this year’s assessment, impressing the judging panel with its strategic approach and well articulated plans.

“fDi’s ranking is designed to pinpoint the most attractive free zones for future investment and recognise those that are taking a proactive approach to their own development,” she said.

Dubai Airport Freezone took the top spot in this year’s rankings after being recognised for “attracting foreign investment to the region as well as strengthening its position as the fastest-growing business hub in the Middle East”

Earlier this year, Dubai Airport Free Zone reported it had seen an increase of more than 100 per cent in the number of new companies setting up in 2011 compared with the previous year.

“It is not by accident that we are ranked the best free zone in the world,” said Dr Mohammad Al Zarouni, director general of Dubai Airport Freezone Authority. “We are passionate about our business, and ensure that we provide outstanding services and facilities to our customers every day,” he added.

Senior officials at JLT Freezone were also pleased with its showing in the rankings for 2012-13 - it was rated on five categories - cost effectiveness, facilities, transportation, incentives and promotion strategy - in its debut appearance.

“fDi’s global free zone rankings and awards are well-known in the industry and to be placed fifth regionally and 11th globally, amongst a competitive field of 150 is an excellent result,” said Malcolm Wall Morris, chief executive officer of Dubai Multi Commodities Centre, the licensing authority for the JLT freezone.

Morris says JLT Freezone incorporates a responsible regulatory environment, world class infrastructure and innovative products and services that enhance commodity trade flows, which in turn contributes to the overall growth of the UAE.

JLT Freezone has more than 4,300 registered companies with approximately 180 new firms joining each month, of which 85 per cent are new to the region. In April alone, the JLT Free Zone says it welcomed 200 new companies, an increase of 153 per cent from April 2011.

“JLT Freezone is currently undertaking research and plans to announce new products and services in due course; we value our contribution to Dubai’s economy at more than $10-12 billion,” Morris said.

“We have worked hard to develop the region’s only commodities centre and our priority for the next ten years is to focus on maintaining strong growth in the number of companies registering and continue to introduce better services and products for our members and community,” he added.