Bringing Innovation to Enterprise: Interview with Bert Hesselink
You have operated in the development of commercial real estate in the Czech Republic for over eighteen years. What are the benefits if these investments are situated in the Moravian-Silesian Region?
I am proud that we were one of the first commercial real estate developers/investors who believed in the Moravian- Silesian Region. We started to invest in developing modern warehouse and office space early enough so that we were ready to meet the demand from companies for space when it arrived in larger numbers. For example, I remember when GE Money Bank (now Moneta Money Bank) was looking for new, modern offices in Ostrava back in 2005 because they realised that many of their employees in their Prague office were originally from Moravia-Silesia and would very much welcome the opportunity to go back to their roots if they had an equal job opportunity. Therefore, GE Money Bank decided to open an office in Ostrava. They then very quickly concluded after starting their search for new space that there wasn’t a single modern office building in the city, let alone available. We were the only ones who were able to develop a new modern office building and deliver it within their timeframe. We completed the new office building in 2006 as part of CTPark Ostrava in the Hrabova commercial zone and they are still operating from the same space more than 10 years after making the big move. For us at CTP, investing in Moravia-Silesia has been a great success which would not have been possible without the proactive approach of the regional (and national) authorities in attracting new investors and supporting us in developing suitable spaces to accommodate these companies and their employees. For us, it is important that companies are attracted to the region because they build the business case for us. Without it we have no business. So in addition to proactive authorities, the biggest benefit of the region is its large, educated workforce and the hard-working mentality of the people in Moravia-Silesia. CTPark Ostrava is an obvious example of not only our success but also the success of the city of Ostrava and its people. Since we started development back in 2006, a total of sixty-nine companies are now active in the park, providing a total of nearly 4,500 people with fulfilling jobs. The park is almost full now, and so we are making preparations to develop a new park of almost 80,000 m2 in Ostrava-Poruba.
In addition to Ostrava, we have also successfully developed modern space for companies and businesses.
The landscapes of our region are changing. What are you doing to make your properties sustainable, and what impact do applied arts have on construction?
We know that society is changing and that there is an increasing focus on sustainability. The next generation rightly demands that we are energy efficient and socially responsible. We recognise that this trend is only becoming stronger, which is a good thing. For us, it is natural to develop sustainable real estate because we are constructing buildings for long-term ownership. Therefore, it is in our own best interest to develop projects that are sustainable over the long-term. As a result, it is in our DNA to develop only high-quality projects. Our projects are always developed to the standard of BREEAM Very Good certification. Also, we are continuing to improve the energy efficiency of our buildings. Our warehouse facilities in the Czech Republic are on average 7% more energy efficient than the market standard, and our production facilities are 11% more energy efficient. In addition, we invest heavily in smart buildings, including smart metering, with the goal of improving energy efficiency. We do this in close cooperation with our tenants because, in the end, it will be up to people to manage the facility in the most (energy) efficient way.
Czech companies managed by experienced foreign professionals seem “innovation incorporated”. What innovations does your enterprise make come true?
We have to be innovative and always think a few years ahead of time about what will be the next trend, because real estate development is a long process—especially in the Czech Republic due to the unpredictable and lengthy permitting process—and because we maintain long-term ownership of our buildings. At a very high level, typical innovations in CTP have to do with the way buildings are designed, constructed, and operated.
CTP is one of the most important investors with Dutch capital in our region. Is your work comparably significant in terms of social responsibility?
We have to be socially responsible because we are a major developer and owner of many commercial buildings in the region. These buildings are very visible, they have a huge impact on the built-up environment, and they provide people places where they spend most of their day, away from their family and friends. These are the places where future generations will earn a living. Therefore, we very much feel socially committed to the region and try to connect in as many ways as possible, through charities and local partnerships with chambers of commerce, universities, high schools, and other means.
This article was first published in Plus Magazine.