Colombia 2013 | TOURISM | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Aníbal Gaviria Correa, Mayor of Medellín, on being the most innovative city, the competitive advantages of Medellín, and urban development.

Aníbal Gaviria Correa
Aníbal Gaviria Correa was born in Medellín in 1966. He holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Business from EAFIT University and has recently pursued graduate studies at John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. In the private sector, he has worked in finance and journalism, where he has occupied several positions such as the CEO and Director of El Mundo newspaper. He was elected Governor of the region of Antioquia between 2004 and 2007, and in 2011 he was elected as Mayor of the city of Medellín for the period 2012-2015.

Medellín was recently declared the most innovative city in the world. What does this award mean for the city?

This award marks one step toward our goal of continuing to show the world a new image of the city while changing old stigmas and stereotypes. Although the past was painful, the present and the future are bright. In addition, the award strengthens the metamorphosis of Medellín and gives us extra positive energy for the challenges we face. We will continue strengthening our security levels and work to make Medellín a more equitable city. The city has experienced huge changes in the last decade. No one would have said 15 years ago that Medellín would be internationally awarded for its innovation and creativeness. I have been to many different European and non-European countries and felt that both media and investors have been surprised by our city's development and evolution over the last few years. In fact, there is a larger appetite for Medellín among foreign investors, especially in services, innovation, IT, and education. In this regard, we have become the Latin American hub for IT-related companies such as Hewlett-Packard and Kimberly-Clark, among others. In addition, Medellín is setting an example for many Latin American cities that send official delegations to our city to see what we do in terms of public services, industry, and business.

What are the competitive advantages of Medellín in terms of investment?

The most relevant one is its human capital. We are creative, hardworking, innovative entrepreneurs, and, above all, very happy people. These features are common among people from the Antioquia department and are widely recognized by all Colombians. Also, we have the best national companies in terms of public services, utilities, and transportation. Our public transportation system deserves a special mention because there is no such integrated public transport anywhere else in the country. It is highly recognized for being environmentally friendly and award winning in the case of the metro. The integrated public transport in Medellín is the perfect example of the innovative and dynamic character of the city. In addition, Medellín represents a unique case nationwide, and I'd say even regionally, in which the public and private sector and the higher education system work jointly toward achieving the development of the city and share the same goals.

What role does urban development play in changing Medellín's image?

We expect that 2013 will be a key year to see urban developments in the city, such as the establishment of a new district that will play a vital role in the expansion of the health cluster in the city. Medellín's future urban development will have its neighboring hills as the epicenter, especially in areas that already provide public services. However, we have to keep in mind our 10- to 15-year plan, and we are currently drafting the next Land Management Plant (POT) to structure the urban development of the city for the next 12 years. In this context, there are two key projects for our administration. One is the Medellín River Park, which is a 23-kilometer-plan to recover the river and its importance for the city's life through public infrastructure that will make the river available again for our citizens. The budget for the Medellín River Road Park is about $1 billion, and public-private partnerships (PPPs) will be a vital element in its development. The other project is the Metropolitan Green Belt and the circumvent garden of Medellín, which focuses on the construction of many elements: housing, road infrastructure, and public services, located within the borders of the city. The initial budget for the first phase of this project is $500 million.

“There is a larger appetite for Medellín among foreign investors, especially in services, innovation, IT, and education."