Şarık Tara was an accomplished engineer, contractor, industrialist, a visionary entrepreneur and philanthropist. He was the founder of ENKA and remained its Honorary President until his death in 2018.
Şarık Tara was born on the 22nd of April 1930 in Skopje, Macedonia, and moved to Istanbul, Turkey in 1942. At the age of 12, during World War II, Şarık Tara was sent to live in Istanbul, where his life was extremely reduced in circumstances compared to his family’s wealth in Skopje. This led him to start working when he was a young student. His knowledge of foreign languages proved to be an advantage in those early years and helped open doors for him. He later became a civil engineer graduating from the Civil Engineering Department of Istanbul Technical University. Because he worked to help support his family while he was a student, Şarık Tara gained considerable experience before graduating.
Between 1954 and 1957, he worked as a site manager on various construction projects. In 1957, together with his brother-in-law Sadi Gülçelik, he established ENKA as a contracting company.
Today ENKA is a global company in the construction sector with large-scale road, tunnel, power plant, and real estate projects. Up to now (2018), ENKA has completed 124 projects in Turkey with a total contract value of 7 billion USD and 396 projects in 45 countries with a total contract value of 40 billion USD. Besides Turkey, ENKA has operated in more than 45 countries on four continents. One of the great successes of Şarık Tara and ENKA has been the establishment of joint ventures in various countries. Among the partnerships ENKA has established, the longest-lasting has been the ENKA-Bechtel partnership, which has continued for over 30 years. The total number of workers and technical staff that ENKA has employed outside of Turkey has reached more than 300,000.
Between 1957 and 1971, ENKA constructed wharves, bridges, factories, and dams in various parts of Turkey. In 1963, ENKA entered the industrial market with the establishment of Pimaş. This was followed by Çimtaş, in 1973, which is active in steel construction, assembly and installation. Today Çimtaş is well-known for its advanced technologies and remains Turkey’s largest steel manufacturer.
In 1971, the company expanded internationally; operating in North Africa and the Middle East, ENKA worked on cement plants, road construction, drinking water infrastructure, water pipelines and treatment plants, brick factories, bridges, housing projects and other urban development schemes. ENKA Pazarlama, established in 1972, helped to pioneer Turkey’s export market. Şarık Tara’s efforts in Turkey and abroad made an important contribution to Turkey’s opening to the outside world and helped to create the transition to a free market economy.
From 1984 onwards, Şarık Tara played a pioneering role in Turkey’s opening to the Soviet Union. In 1988, he signed the contracts for ENKA’s first jobs in the Soviet Union (the renovation of the Petrovski Arcade and construction of the Moscow Hospital). Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Şarık Tara was determined to have a permanent presence in Russia. While increasing the volume of ENKA’s work and investments, he also paved the way for other Turkish companies to become successful in Russia.
In 2002, as the contractor and subsequently the owner of the natural gas-fired combined cycle power plants at Gebze, Adapazarı and Izmir, ENKA became Turkey’s largest private sector power generator.
Promotion of sport, arts and education
After the untimely death of his partner and brother-in-law Sadi Gülçelik, Şarık Tara established the Sadi Gülçelik Sports Complex. In 1983, to guarantee the future of this facility, he established the ENKA Foundation, thereby institutionalizing his philanthropic work in the areas of education, the arts, and sports. The ENKA Foundation provides youth with the opportunity to participate in sports, and trains athletes for success in the international arena such as the Olympics.
The Istanbul Private ENKA Schools opened its doors in 1996. Three years later, in 1999, ENKA established the Adapazarı Private School, immediately after the Adapazarı earthquake of 1999. The quick construction enabled teaching to begin in the same year. The children were provided with free education and shelter. The private ENKA Anatolian Technical and Vocational High School was set up in 2008. All of the schools continue to provide high standards of education under the umbrella of the ENKA Foundation.
Contributions to international relations
It was 1973 when Şarık Tara first participated at the World Economic Forum in Davos and soon became a regular at these meetings. As a political visionary, Tara is considered a catalyst in developing Turkey’s international relations and presence in the 1970s and 80s.
Şarık Tara worked continuously for friendship, prosperity and dialogue between Greece and Turkey. In 1988, he was instrumental in the meeting between the prime ministers of the two countries, Turgut Özal and Andreas Papandreou, during the World Economic Forum in Davos. This resulted in the establishment of an official bilateral dialogue between the two countries and Şarık Tara became the chair of the Turkish-Greek Business Council. Remaining in this role until 2004, he played a major role in establishing close relations and cooperation between the respective business communities, thus making an important contribution to the development of friendly relations between the two countries.
In 2016, he was the first and thus far only person to have received the inaugural Business Statesman Award from the World Economic Forum.
Furthermore, Şarık Tara took an active part in the foundation of the Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEİK) in 1986 and became a member of its executive board. He also took on the chairmanship of the Turkish-Japanese Business Council, which was established within DEIK in the same year. He remained in this position until 2000, contributing to the development of economic relations between the two countries.
Şarık Tara personally strove for Turkey’s accession to the European Union for many years, engaging in lobbying in Turkey and abroad. A constant believer in the solution of problems through mutual dialogue, he also exerted great efforts for regional peace in the Balkans.
Şarık Tara passed away on June 28th, 2018. He had 3 children, 7 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren. He was a true leader for his family, his company, his foundation, as well as Turkey.
- Gold Mercury International Award for Productive Development and International Cooperation in 1983
- Businessman of the Year award by Türkiye Daily Newspaper in 1984
- Awarded the Gold Medal by the Polish Council of State on March 27, 1985, for his services to Poland
- Awarded the Order of the Sacred Treasure – Gold and Silver Star by the Japanese Emperor on April 29, 1991 for his outstanding contributions to economic relations between Turkey and Japan
- Award given by the International Contractors’ Association on March 31, 1992 for his outstanding accomplishments abroad
- Granted the Commercial Leadership Award given by the American-Turkish Council (ATC) on March 8, 1996, for the exemplary success of the ENKA-Bechtel Partnership
- Named “Graduate of the Year” by the İTÜ Alumni Association on May 28, 1996, for unparalleled services to the association and the university
- Awarded the Republic of Turkey’s State Medal of Distinguished Service by the President of Turkey on October 27, 1997, for his outstanding success in promoting Turkey around the world
- Successful Businessman of the Year given by Gebze Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association on June 13, 1998
- Businessman of the Year award by Finans Dünyası Periodical on January 13, 1999
- Certificate of Appointment awarded by the Turkish-American Businessmen’s Association on February 18, 2000
- Granted the Golden Bee Award on April 21, 2000, by Istanbul Technical University for contributions to the nation’s infrastructure and technological advancement and for supporting İTÜ
- Granted the Institutional Leadership Award by EastWest Institute New York on May 02, 2000, for rescue and relief efforts during the Turkish and Greek earthquakes and for contributions to rebuilding the Balkans
- Awarded the Abdi İpekçi Peace and Friendship Prize under the aegis of the United Nations on November 2, 2001, for his contributions to friendship between Turkey and Greece
- Award of Success given on June 12, 2002 by TABA-AmCham Turkish-American Business Association / Turkish American Chamber of Commerce for his accomplishments and contributions to the development of Turkish American Relations
- Businessman of the Year award on January 27, 2005 by the Friendship Association with the Russian Federation
- Awarded the Order of the Croatian Daystar (Danica Hrvatska Blaž Lorković) by the President of Croatia on November 22, 2005, for his outstanding contributions to economic and social relations between Croatia and Turkey
- Life Achievement Award granted by 2. Turkish-Arab Economic Forum in İstanbul on June 8, 2006
- Eurasia’s New Star award from ASIAD (Eurasia Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association) on June 22, 2006
- Businessmen with Strategic Vision award from Turkey Asia Strategic Research Center on November 25, 2008
- Leadership Award from EDU in İstanbul in April 2009
- Awarded the Order of Friendship by the President of Russia on September 25, 2010, for his invaluable contributions to economic and commercial relations between Turkey and the Russian Federation and for his efforts to spread the Russian language and culture abroad
- Award of Honor in April 2010 from TIMDER-Trade Association for Sanitary and Building Supplies for contribution to the development of pipe sector
- Granted the Golden Bee Award by İTÜ on May 20, 2011, for support for and donations to İTÜ
- Award of Honor on December 05, 2012 from CAPITAL Business and Economy Magazine for his contributions to the Turkish business community
- Granted a Lifetime Achievement Award by the International Institute for Middle-East and Balkan Studies (IFEMES) on January 26, 2013
- Award of Honor of the Business World by Capital Weekly on December 16, 2015
- Service to Turkish Sports Award by Olympic House in Istanbul on January 05, 2016
- Cem Papandreou Award of Friendship on April 16, 2016
- Business Statesman Award given by World Economic Forum on November 11, 2016
- Sing of the City, Jury Honorary Award on November 29, 2017
Distinguished Service Award
- Granted the Distinguished Service Award by the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs on May 17, 1991, for his contributions to bilateral and multilateral relations with many countries
- Granted the Athens City Medal by the Mayor of Athens on June 01, 2004, for his contributions to Turkish-Greek Friendship
- Granted a Certificate of Honorary Citizenship from the Skopje City Council on November 30, 2005
- Granted a Certificate of Honorary Citizenship from the Çayır Municipality on June 1, 2014, for his support and contributions to the Skopje and Çayır Municipalities
- Honorary Doctorate from İstanbul Technical University on May 10, 1984
- Honorary Doctorate from the Moscow Medical Academy on November 17, 1993 for construction and renovation of hospitals in Russia
- Honorary Doctorate given by Gebze Higher Technology Institute Senate – Faculty of Management Administration and Organization on January 29, 2003
- Honorary Doctorate conferred on December 26, 2005 by the Süleyman Demirel University in Isparta
- Honorary Doctorate given by Dubrovnik International University in Croatia on June 01, 2013.