PDC: Sights Set On Further Growth For Penang

June 2024 FEATURE
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BKIP 2024.

PENANG HAS witnessed a remarkable economic transformation over the years, and at the heart of this evolution stands the Penang Development Corporation (PDC). Established in 1969, PDC was born out of a vision to propel Penang to become an economic powerhouse.

Now approaching its 55th year, PDC continues to lead Penang’s growth, embodying its mission to meet stakeholders’ needs in line with the state’s aspirations.

Prai Industrial Park 2024.

Evolution of Roles

Over the decades, as Penang’s economic landscape evolved, so did PDC’s roles. Initially focused on attracting foreign investments and developing industrial zones, PDC gradually strengthened its capabilities in urban planning, township development and sustainable growth initiatives.

PDC’s role in industrial promotion began in 1970 when it pioneered the concept of a Free Trade Zone (FTZ) to draw in foreign investments in export-oriented and labour-intensive sectors. It established Malaysia’s first FTZ at Sungai Kluang in Bayan Lepas in 1972. This FTZ acted as the main socket to plug into international markets through electronic manufacturing.

The construction of Bukit Minyak Industrial Park in 1994.

To attract foreign investors, PDC formed the first electronics company on the island, Penang Electronics. Nevertheless, PDC did not remain solely involved in the manufacturing sector but expanded to invest in other infrastructural provisions such as land, electricity and water supply. From that trajectory, PDC emerged as a transformative township developer. Starting with human capital training by the City In-Service Centre—Malaysia’s first skills development centre formed in 1970 (later known as Penang Skills Development Centre or PSDC in 1989)—and onwards to the development of Bayan Baru in 1975 and Seberang Jaya in 1976, Penang became a global manufacturing hub.

Penang Industrial Park has created job opportunities especially for women.

Decades after its formation, PDC has continued its involvement in the state’s urban planning scheme. Their ongoing project in Bandar Cassia (Batu Kawan), which commenced in 1990, is designed to be a smart eco-city housing high-tech and environmentally friendly companies. These establishments will be given a 60-year lease once completed.

PDC has also developed seven other industrial parks on the mainland: Mak Mandin, Seberang Jaya, Perai, Bukit Tengah, Bukit Minyak, Penang Science Park (North), Batu Kawan Industrial Park (BKIP and BKIP3) and Bandar Cassia Technology Park. These cater predominantly to the research and development of electrical and electronics, medical technology, aerospace/avionics and precision engineering and equipment.

The Prai Industrial Park in 1990.

These were purposed to accelerate growth by regenerating employment, and have now matured to be the cornerstone of Penang’s economy. Vital in attracting FDIs, Penang has been dubbed “Silicon Valley of the East”. 

Today, PDC’s 11 industrial parks provide a robust environment for both local and international businesses.

Workers at Penang Electronics, the first electronics plant in Penang set up by PDC.

Next-Gen Industrial Parks

More than 350 MNCs (Multinational Corporations) and 4,000 manufacturing-related SMI/SMEs (Small and Medium Industries/ Enterprises) call Penang home today.

The uniqueness of PDC’s industrial parks lies in their proximity to one another, a 40km radius at most, forming a solid industrial nucleus and supply chain network. These parks are connected by major highways, by seaports and by an airport. For 2023, Penang attracted 41% of the manufacturing FDI inflow into Malaysia.

The Japanese-invested factory in 1974.

As PDC looks forward to what is to come, its CEO, Aziz Bakar, highlights the fact that next-generation industrial parks “will be infra-ready, focusing on the synergies between sustainability and efficiency by harnessing the power of Internet of Things (IoT) and holistic management”. Following Environmental Social Governance (ESG) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) values, PDC’s next-gen industrial parks will be designed with world-class industrial facilities, green features, multipurpose public spaces and amenities where business and life can coexist.

Signing of PDC Tun Lim and Somicon in 1984.

PDC does not solely create large industrial parks, it also hones in on developing employees that will lead companies in the future. Aziz emphasised that the corporation’s focus now is on technological intensity and the generation of employment opportunities.

“Penang has been the choice location for investors, and with the surging demand for land by industrial players, PDC must be innovative and efficient in planning the future of industrial parks,” Aziz remarked.

Bayan Lepas FTZ 2024.

With over 50 years of experience in industrial development, PDC continues to shape Penang’s economic journey by drawing both domestic and foreign investors to its vibrant, next-generation industrial parks. These attainments testify not only to PDC’s enduring legacy but also its commitment to the fostering of continued industrial progress.

Penang Science Park 2024.

  • [1] Message to all members and branches from Acting National Chairman of Gerakan, Y.A.B. Dr Lim Chong Eu, 16 July 1971”, reprinted as “Party Crisis” in Lim Choon Sooi, ed., Towards the Future: Selected Speeches and Statements of Lim Chong Eu, 1970-1989 (Penang: Oon Chin Seang, 1990), 15-16.
  • [2] Batu Kawan Industrial Park 3 (BKIP3), the 10th industrial park, was launched by Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim in February 2024.
  • [3] Penang—Not short of investments but skilled workers, The Edge Malaysia, 22 December 2022, https://theedgemalaysia.com/article/cover-storypenang-%E2%80%94-not-short-investmentsskilled-workers.