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Exclusive Interview with Mr Keith Martin

Dec 2012. For the inaugural In Conversation exclusive interview series, we have Mr Keith Martin, Chief Executive Officer of Global Capital and Development (GCD), the concession holder tasked with developing Medini Business. As we are ushering in 2013, www.iskandar.asia's Team has prepared 13 questions interview for Mr Martin to share his thoughts with us. Mr Martin met up with www.iskandar.asia's Team recently and here are excerpts of the interview:

km    medini-business

1) We would like our viewers to know you better. Would you mind to share with us somethings about your background and your current role in Iskandar Malaysia?

I have lived and worked in Asia for 25 years, my profession is quantity surveying, and have been fortunate enough to have worked on a number of major projects including; Bank of China in Hong Kong, Chep Lap Kok Airport, North East Line MRT in Singapore, Umbok New Town in South Korea, Incheon Bridge PPP in South Korea, Singapore Sports Hub PPP, various infrastructure PPP advisory roles throughout Asia, and now the Medini Township Development in Iskandar, where I am CEO of Global Capital & Development (GCD), one of the Master Concessionaires for Medini.

 2) Masterplan for Medini Business have been reviewed few times since its inception. Could you enlighten us on the needs and rationale of the frequent reviews?

Master plans, particularly on the scale of Iskandar and Medini are ‘living entities’, by that I mean they must remain relevant and respond to economic, social and political change as and when change occurs. The most significant repositioning for us in Medini was to shift a financial industry focus, which was positioned pre financial crisis, to a focus on business park space; responding to the needs of Singapore and Malaysia growth, and in particular offering the ‘blended solution’ for business with a headquarters in Singapore or KL, and a significant support facility located in Medini. Above all, successful master planning must be ‘demand driven’, and not be tempted by grandeur and marketing of iconic and futuristic imaging; understanding the demand and responding to ‘end-user’ functionality will win the day!

3) The bilateral relationship between Malaysia and Singapore is now at its best. Is GCD leveraging on this factor to draw more investors from Singapore to locate their business and expand their presence in Medini Business?

In a word ‘yes’. The very positive bilateral relationships, and joint investments involving Temasek and Khazanah help to illustrate the new joint platform for business and living between Singapore and Malaysia. This is a clear and massive ‘validation’ for Singaporean investors as well as expats in Singapore, that this area now has all of the essential infrastructure in place to support quality and affordable business and living environments.

4) Eco-friendly and clean tech business park are the trends and new direction for industrial places in this era. Is Medini Business position itself towards this direction?

Personally, I still believe that developers are still in the stage of using ‘eco’ and ‘green’ more for marketing purposes; so until Government agencies get tough of building regulations that legislate for such good practice, we may not see real progress in this area.  The other factor to look for of course is that effective ‘eco’ and ‘green’ design is probably more about how facilities are maintained and managed, so unless there is an ‘owner-operator’ or ‘life of asset’ obligation on developers, we are unlikely to see real investment in these matters.  Having said that, the better developers will respond to water recycling, waste management, which is now because more multi nationals are obligated to only buy/rent premises that adopt environmentally effective design and management features.

5) What are the latest developments taking place in Medini Business and what can be expected by end 2012 and by 2013?

Very good positive momentum; we will soon be announcing a 3m sqft GFA investment by a Singapore developer, which is the first phase of Media Village (or “Media@Medini”), being the supporting ecosystem alongside the Pinewood Malaysia TV and Film Studios. Before the middle of 2013 we will be finalising a commercial and residential development by a regional developer, and this will be located between Legoland and Gleneagles Hospital.

6) Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios is currently under construction and is scheduled for completion by May 2013 and will probably start their operation in Sep 2013. Media@Medini is posed to support and complement the media and creative industries, could you update us on the progress of Media@Medini?

The creative industries, encompassing TV and Film production, are a very exciting and vibrant sector to be working with, and cover so many aspects of business and related services; as mentioned we are soon to announce the first phase of Media@Medini, and this will be a little bit behind the opening of the film and TV studios, but will soon catch up and provide excellent functional creative and work space for the media and creative businesses looking to benefit from the studios. In addition to Pinewood being an internationally recognised brand, the Malaysian Government have been very positive in their forward looking approach by granting a 30% cost rebate system to creative productions in Medini; which will provide the added boost to realise Medini as the centre for media and creative industry in Asia.

 7) Iskandar Malaysia is 6 this year! You have been with GCD since September 2010. Could you share with us your experience in marketing Medini Business then and now?

In the early days, it’s safe to say the world was a different place – by that I mean a lot of new development ‘pre crisis’ seemed to ignore any boundaries, debt and equity was far too easy to obtain. We have all now experienced a serious shake-up, which I consider to be a timely reminder that master plans and all major projects must have a solid foundation, investment fundamentals must be right, with clearly defined demand sources.  Coming out of whatever version of the financial crisis we are in now, Medini will be attractive due to its strategic location, provision of infrastructure, and affordability.  Therefore, the direction of our marketing for Medini is more straight forward, and responds directly to the needs of business and economic growth in Singapore, Malaysia and the region.

8) The country members of ASEAN are working closely and actively to achieve the ultimate goal of ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015. Is Medini Business ready to offer business platform for business community in the region to get ready on tapping the opportunities offered by AEC? Could you elaborate more on the roles which Iskandar Malaysia could offer to ASEAN and Asia?

I recently spoke at an ASEAN Ministers Conference in Cambodia, my topic was “Properly Prepared Projects, the essential PPP”; again and again we see the positive role PPP project delivery can provide to the growth of ASEAN nations, as long as projects are properly prepared. Anyway, it struck me at this conference that Medini could provide an ideal location for AEC representative and administrative offices, being as I often describe our location, situated half way between Singapore and Malaysia. So some ‘food for thought’ there, and I would like to further develop this thinking.

9) In order to achieve the ultimate goal to become a bustling and vibrant metropolis, what are the issues which you think Iskandar Malaysia should put on high priority at this juncture?

Personally, I am not so sure we should aim for “vibrant metropolis”, why not just a successful, functional and pleasant location to live and work? But to achieve the type of growth being targeted, it is vital that Government regulate and phase developments, the biggest threat to real estate success is over supply, so I would urge a greater understanding of demand drivers and population growth projections, aligned with developments that respects the overall integrity of master planning and phasing of such growth.

10)  In less than 30 words, how would you promote Iskandar Malaysia to our potential investors?

I would tend to move away from the high rise grandeur and metropolis marketing, and go with our strengths, such as space and affordability, together with excellent infrastructure.  These factors together with Iskandar’s strategic location are strong fundamentals, which are clear for all to see, nothing better than marketing reality!

11) Where is your favourite hang-out place in Iskandar Malaysia and why?

Having a garden where I can play with my four kids is a massive positive for us as a family.  We enjoy trips to Desaru, fishing lakes, and basically much more outdoor activities.

12) Which part of Iskandar Malaysia you’re staying now?

Currently we are renting in Horizon Hills, and are about to start building our own house in Ledang Heights.

13) We are reaching year end. Could you share with us your aspirations and resolutions for 2013 from Iskandar Malaysia and personal’s perspectives?

For everyone living in Johor there is a fantastic future opportunity, the catalyst for change is upon everyone here.  I would really like to see more energy, knowledge and understanding of these opportunities being generated and shared with the residents of Johor, and allow people to have a better understanding of the positive future ahead, and take pride in their future. I hope the new developments are more seen as a greater power for good and opportunity for positive change, rather than a place to play the real estate markets.

Fore more details on GCD and Medini, here are the URLs:
http://www.gcdmedini.com
http://www.medini.com.my

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