This tiny landlocked entity in the center of the Balkans is trying to get out from poverty by luring in businesses from the U.S. The American Economic Zone set to open today will offer free land and tax breaks for companies who want to establish themselves in Europe.
Most of the world got to know the name of Kosovo by the Allied Force air campaign, after which U.S-lead NATO forces rove the province from Serbia in 1999. The early years of young state (it declared independence in 2008) has been full of difficulties. The unemployment rate is nearly 29%, the average monthly pay is an equivalent of $422. The refugee/migration crisis in 2015 had been preceded by a wave of future seekers from Kosovo.
Kosovo has special ties with Iowa, they are sister states. The Hawkeye State 8000 km away and this tiny entity in the center of the Balkans have established military and diplomatic ties over the past decade. The Iowa National Guard has been in a official partnership with Kosovan armed forces since 2011. The young country opened its third outpost in the U.S. in Des Moines.
This Tuesday is the day Norwalk’s annual State of the City program. Kosovan officials picked this event to announce a special economic zone dedicated to their ’liberators’. This 1200 acres land in Gjakova, Western Kosovo, is called the American Economic Zone. It offers free land a break from property taxes for U.S. companies who want to expand in Europe.
There is a direct highway to a sea port in the neighbouring Albania and to the international airport in the capital Pristina (1 hour ride on M9). There is also a non-operational airport in Gjakova, which was used by the Italian air force to support KFOR operations.
To establish an office or some kind of operation in the Zone, a company in any type of business has to be at least 51% American owned.’Agriculture, manufacturing, technology, industry, food processors…any company that wants to build their market or establish in Europe, that’s who we want’ – said the chief of mission to the Kosovo consulate in the state capital.
The program office in Norwalk, Warren County, accepts applications from Iowa at the moment but will extend its recruiting activity for the entire U.S later this year. Kosovo negotiated the conditions offered through with the EU.
The free land would be particularly beneficial for manufacturers and food companies. Kosovan officials state that there have been lot of interest by Iowan companies but no concrete deals were made yet.