Faith in Clark bears much fruit
When Ariella Nasser-Moskovitz first saw the vast expanse of land that former President Fidel V. Ramos had asked her late husband to help redevelop, she was filled with extreme trepidation.
And for good reason: The property was blighted by devastating lahar in the wake of the spectacular eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991 and a pall of gloom hung over the property following the departure of US forces from the former Clark Air Base.
But where she saw tremendous risks, the intrepid Jack Nasser, whose Gelmart Industries was once the country’s biggest private employer and largest exporter, only saw a great opportunity to not just make a profit but also make a difference in the country that had treated him and his family so well.
Nasser, who came to the Philippines in 1952, immediately recognized that Clark had a future as a major business hub in Central Luzon and Asia. He leased 46 hectares in the center of Clark and established the Philexcel Business Park.
The gutsy move in 1992 raised a lot of eyebrows and indeed, there was a time not long after the land was leased when they thought they had made a huge mistake.
For three years after they started putting in the infrastructure and making the zone ready to accept locators, the companies they approached were reluctant to set up shop, given the lingering threat of more lahar flows.
But they believed that with the park’s proximity to the international airport and the expectation that the Philippines will soon reclaim its position as a manufacturing hub, it was only a matter of time before companies will flock to the industrial estate.
That vision sustained Ariella after Nasser, former Honorary Consul to Israel, passed away in 1996. She pursued the project and the faith she and her late husband placed in Clark eventually bore much fruit with more companies finding the wisdom in their vision and finally settling in Clark.
“And we have been there since then. It is beautiful today,” says Ariella, president of Philexcel Business Park, which marked another milestone with the opening of a new section to house Nasser’s precious Mabini art collection.
One of their first tenants at Philexcel was a furniture manufacturing company, which was set up in 1996. It was referred to them by Clark Development Corp. simply because they were the only player in town.
Twenty years later, the company is still a tenant and is proud to be part of the business park that was established when others wanted to run as far away from Clark as possible.
The past four years have been a flurry of activity, says Ariella, who came to the Philippines in 1972, with the Philippine economy—and specifically Clark—undeniably doing well.
“There are more direct flights coming in and manufacturing is starting to come back. Call centers are also here now and more will follow,” she predicts.
Ariella tells the Inquirer that the growth potential will mainly come from China, because more multinational manufacturing companies are deciding to move out of China and into other sites such as the Philippines. The cost advantage of China is starting to erode and the quality of life has been found to be far better in the Philippines.
“China has become much more expensive for them, with the cost of labor going up 20 to 30 percent. Here, we have very good workers and right in Angeles, there are 18 colleges and two universities. The workforce is there and it is educated, that is why this is good also for call centers,” she says.
It is in anticipation of this growth that Philexcel has started to add to the development, as only 80 percent of the property has been developed. But the entire developed area is occupied with more companies wanting to secure space.
“We really cannot build fast enough,” says Ariella, adding that the company is looking for other pieces of property within the Clark complex to prepare for the expected influx of manufacturing companies from China.
As of today, about half of the Philexcel Business Park is devoted to call centers and other business process outsourcing companies. The balance is taken up by manufacturing companies, such as those in medical equipment, furniture, electronics, automotive parts and green technology.
“We plan to grow the rest of the park and get even more land from Clark Development Corp. As much as I can, I will want to expand as we expect a big exodus from China,” she says.
And they don’t even need to do much marketing as the current tenants are the best advertisers of the success that they have had in the country.
“Once we got the first one or two, they brought in their friends. By word of mouth, we got our tenants,” says the former member of the Israeli Air Force.
And they, like Ariella, who also has homes in New York and Tel Aviv, have made the Philippines their home, too.
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