SMEs welcome added convenience of one-stop shop

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) were largely in favour of having a one-stop shop to handle public sector industrial facilities, citing increased convenience as the key benefit.

In early 2018, industrial land and properties under HDB will be transferred to JTC Corporation.

Many SMEs believe JTC, with its finger on the pulse of industries' needs, will be well placed to help firms grow. But they also flagged some concerns, notably on rental rates when leases are up for renewal. "A worry is will JTC one day decide to sell the HDB factories to Reits or the private sector. If so, the rents could go up and that may be worse for SMEs," said Mr Tay Meng Leong, a director at City Tyre Auto, also the president of Sin Ming AutoCare Merchant Association.

City Tyre Auto occupies space at HDB premises in Sin Ming AutoCare and AMK AutoPoint, paying rent plus a conservancy charge of $6,000 to $6,500 per month for each location.

JTC sold some of its industrial space to the private sector - Mapletree Investments, Soilbuild Group Holdings and Mapletree Industrial Trust - in 2008 and 2011.

Rentals could also rise if JTC undertakes massive redevelopment of HDB's industrial units, 75 per cent of which were built in the early 80s.

Mr Nicholas Mak, executive director at SLP International Property Consultants, said: "Most of HDB's industrial properties are quite old. So there is a potential that JTC may redevelop them in the future. Should that happen, rents may go up in tandem."

Concerns aside, firms are heartened that the existing HDB team handling industrial property matters will be transferred to JTC. "The initial concern is whether JTC can adequately address the needs of micro-firms since JTC deals mostly with the big companies. But this concern is minimised as firms will still work with the HDB officers," said Meiban Group chairman George Goh.

JTC currently oversees 5,600 industrial units and 3,100 land leases, covering about 7,400ha of land. After the transfer, the numbers will increase to 16,300 industrial units and 3,640 land leases, covering 8,100ha of land.

Wong Siew Ying

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 20, 2016, with the headline 'SMEs welcome added convenience of one-stop shop'. Print Edition | Subscribe