Exports earnings of the Korean Export Processing Zone (KEPZ) are gaining momentum as investment flow brings factories in the Chittagong-based industrial zone to shape and enable them to optimise production.
South Korea's Youngone Corporation, which established the country's first private EPZ, alone shipped products worth $200 million in 2017, a stark contrast to the five initial years since production started in 2012 when $197 million was brought in.
With $100 million already earned in the past four months, it hopes to rake in $220 million this year and double that in 2021.
That's not a far-fetched idea as nine new factories will go into operations this year, joining the existing 25 in the zone located in Anwara upazila.
By 2021, Youngone plans more than 36 factories to be up and running and the foundations ready for 100 in total.
On the export earnings, Mohammad Shahjahan, executive director of the Kepz, credited the rise in the number of clients by some 10-15 to reach 25. He said the journey started with just one shoe factory and now there are 24 others for textiles.
Companies like Samsung and LG are interested to invest in the EPZ but are being deterred by the delay in land mutation, Shahjahan said. He hopes the formalities would end soon. The company has already invested about $300 million and says $1.2 billion will be gradually poured into the zone in total.
According to the manufacturer, direct jobs would double in 2021 from some 20,000 at present, 90 percent of whom are locals. Its target is to create 100,000 jobs.
Indirect job, which doubles direct jobs at every stage, will total 200,000.
During a recent visit, it was found that the construction is underway for IT industries, a product research, design and development zone, and a female workers' dormitory.
Other facilities in the making include a university building for 3,000 students, schools, colleges, hospitals and vocational institutions, all expected to be complete by 2021.
Production was also found running in full swing at Karnaphuli Shoes, Karnaphuli Garments, Karnaphuli Polyester Products, Evertop Product Development Company, Gaya Product Development Company and Dei-Go Product Development Company.
The 2,492-acre area 22 kilometers off the port city was handed over to Korean EPZ Corporation (BD) Ltd, a subsidiary of Youngone, in 1999 following an agreement between Bangladesh and South Korea in 1995.
The Department of Environment gave its approval in 2009, allowing Youngone to use 48 percent of the area for setting up factories and associated facilities while the rest for gardening and lakes.