Ahmed bin Sulayem, the executive chairman of the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre, is planning a major expansion of the free zone, which is expected to increase its capacity by as much as 25 per cent in the next two years.
"By the end of 2014, the first quarter of 2015 at the very latest, we will surpass 10,000 companies at DMCC," Mr bin Sulayem told The National. "Our current capacity is about 8,000 companies so we will have to expand to do this, but we have land, we have an area to expand into."
Today, there are more than 6,300 companies operating within the free zone that specialises in the trade of gold, diamonds, tea, pearls and commodities futures contracts, according to DMCC data.
Two years ago, when only 3,700 companies were registered at DMCC, Mr bin Sulayem made a pledge to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. "I made a promise to him. I said in 2013 we will surpass 7,200 companies here at the DMCC. I did not do this to show off but because I knew the demand was there and that our rates of growth would be sustained. We have hit a critical mass that means we are attracting more and more companies."
The number of tenants has grown so rapidly at the free zone as Dubai has increased its presence in the global gold and diamond trade.
The gemstone trade has grown particularly quickly from just US$5 million (Dh18.3m) worth of diamonds in 2003 to more than $39 billion in 2011. Dubai is now in the top three diamond trading centres in the world after Mumbai and Antwerp.
Gold, meanwhile, has charted a similarly stellar trajectory. Dubai's gold trade was worth just $6bn in 2003, according to DMCC data. By 2011 $56bn was traded, made up of $33bn in imports and $23bn in exports.
Even though there is still plenty of free office space in the Jumeirah Lakes Towers complex that houses DMCC, property analysts welcomed the plans.
"It is great they are planning for the future," said Craig Plumb, the head of research in Dubai for Jones Lang LaSalle, the property consultancy.
"The demand for office space in Dubai is starting to increase. Most of the increases we see in the general market are from existing firms looking to expand here, not new firms coming in," he added.
Mr bin Sulayem said, however, that the majority of new tenants at the DMCC were new to the UAE. "In 2012 94 per cent of companies we signed up were new to the UAE. Today it is 80 per cent," he said.
The DMCC is trying to appeal to banks, accountants and other firms from the financial services sector. "The diamond and gold trade needs banks and accountants to function," Mr bin Sulayem said.
The announcement of the DMCC expansion plans came as Bank of Baroda, the Indian bank that has operated in Dubai since the days before federalisation, opened a new branch in Almas Tower, home of the DMCC's diamond trade.