As the country’s economic and development agency, Malta Enterprise has existen in various guises for more than five decades. Today, its mission remains to attract foreign direct investment, while supporting the growth of existing operations on the island and serving as the national contact point for the Enterprise Europe Network. Joining Malta Enterprise as CEO in August 2019, Kurt Farrugia honours the organisation’s rich past while helping to prepare Malta for an opportunity-rich future.
Kurt Farrugia’s life and career have orbited around one word: communication. After graduating in Communications from the University of Malta, he rapidly worked his way through the journalistic ranks to become Deputy Editor at one of Malta’s largest newspapers at the age of just 23. An appointment as Editor of an online news portal for the Labour Party then set the foundations of a professional journey that blended Kurt’s talent for communications, his passion for Malta and his growing political prowess.
“I was always in the backroom of communications,” he recalls, sharing a career path that next saw him named Head of Government Communication and the Prime Minister’s Spokesperson in 2013, before being appointed by the Prime Minister to the Malta-UK Business Promotion Task Force in August 2017. “I accompanied the Prime Minister in his international engagements at EU level, forming part of the Task Force that organised the Valletta Summit on Migration, the 2015 Commonwealth Head of Governments Meeting and the Informal European Council during Malta’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union in February 2017. As well as communications, this period offered valuable experience in migration policy, the environment and business management.”
Aside from his communications niche, this active contribution to Malta’s investment promotion also served as professional preparation for Kurt’s current role as CEO at Malta Enterprise from August 2019, following the retirement of former CEO Mario Galea. “A large part of Malta Enterprise’s mission is to promote the island, so the CEO – and the whole team – has to have a huge affection and loyalty to the nation,” he continues. “In terms of communications, we must also showcase the island’s strengths and incentives, clearly relaying the message that Malta is an excellent place to do business.”
First established in the 1950s, Malta Enterprise is the latest evolution of multiple organisations before it, all sharing the objective to attract foreign investment to Malta. Its decades of accumulated experience and constant interaction with the country’s main economic players make Malta Enterprise well-placed to advise the Government on economic policy and act as the national contact point for the Enterprise Europe Network, through which local companies can develop links with counterparts in over 60 countries.
In addition, Kurt’s responsibility as CEO extends to ensuring that Malta Enterprise is mindful
and reflective of Malta’s contemporary business market, building on the corporation’s successes of yesteryear while preparing it for the next phase of its development. It is a challenge that Kurt meets with characteristic energy, positivity and tireless enthusiasm.
“My role is to serve and support businesses in Malta, small or large, long-established or start-ups,” he explains. “We must build a corporation that helps businesses throughout their lifecycle, however we can, including improving their local business network and providing international expansion opportunities. We encourage foreign investment and link businesses to various local decision-makers to assist them as they set up their operations in Malta, acting as their go-between with banks, institutions, industrial spaces, suppliers – whatever they need to smooth their path to relocation. To that end, communication is a central aspect of Malta Enterprise, both in policy and in coordination with other entities. Our whole infrastructure exists to ensure that we deliver our message with clarity and substance, locally and globally.”
To enable this bespoke mix of ability with proactivity, a key part of Kurt’s role is to oversee the daily management of Malta Enterprise within a solid organisational structure. The corporation operates under a Chairperson and a Board of Directors appointed by the Ministry for Energy, Enterprise and Sustainable Development. And, as CEO, Kurt leads a senior management team that delivers Malta Enterprise’s host of services, via multiple divisions that specialise in a wide range of business disciplines.
“I lead around 200 team members in total, all located across a number of entities, including the Malta Life Sciences Park, the Kordin Business Incubation Centre, Business First, our Gozo office, and our relationship management arm named Business Development Malta (BDM),” he explains. “BDM covers direct contact with businesses and ensures that we have a personal relationship with each company, particularly within local industrial estates, so that we can collaborate with them to find solutions to any issues and help them adapt to changing circumstances. Our ability to offer that personal, available, hands-on approach is so important, since Malta is such a small island.”
As well as a wealth of diverse expertise, the vast Malta Enterprise team also brings together the experience of members who have worked within the corporation for decades alongside newer recruits. Kurt’s leadership style, at the helm of such a varied and richly knowledgeable team, must therefore honour and consider the wisdom of industry veterans while incorporating new ideas that will guarantee Malta Enterprise’s legacy for years to come.
“Ours is a corporation with a 50-plus-year history. Between our management structure and the collective experience of our chief officers, division heads and managers, our people are more than equipped to make independent and responsible decisions. My time at Malta Enterprise thus far has been significantly shorter than that of those who have been here for 30 or 35 years, so I don’t interfere in their day-to-day – although, of course, I keep an open-door policy for all. I am here to steer Malta Enterprise in the right direction and invest in an approach that matches that of modern businesses; to shape a vision for the corporation’s future and engage with our extraordinary team on the specifics of realising it.”
This vision, Kurt shares, is as multi-faceted as Malta’s business landscape. While he focuses on welcoming new business, creating niches and supporting the sustainable expansion of existing companies, Kurt has also spent the past two years developing an internal strategy that will attract the kind of businesses that will improve the quality of life of Maltese people, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Although 2020 was an apocalypse for Malta’s economic sector, the outlook changed through 2021 as restrictions eased and businesses recovered,” the CEO says. “However, Malta’s impressive management of the pandemic was an important part of our economic rebound. Production continued in most local factories, which inspired international companies to shift their operations to the island. As they were deciding where to invest, Malta became an increasingly attractive destination.”
For the coming year, Kurt foresees the country’s upward trajectory will continue, aided by a strong start-up structure and diversification into new niche markets such as medical cannabis. Likewise, he notes that Malta Enterprise’s implementation of the COVID Wage Supplement has enabled business owners to now invest back into their companies – which, in turn, is raising the island’s international profile.
“We are seeing an influx of new start-ups, which not only brings economic benefits but also adds talent and innovation to our business landscape, raising the standard of the community in general,” Kurt adds in conclusion.
“I love Malta and I believe in the potential of these islands. Malta’s small size is a strength for setting up businesses. Here, it is easy to contact decision-makers and regulatory bodies, within an agile and open-minded business network. Plus, Malta is a great place to live and raise a family, with a super healthcare system, good education and schools, an excellent location with direct flights across Europe and beyond, and with excellent English language skills. Success is not a destination but a journey – and I am proud that, with our help, Malta is firmly on its way.”
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