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Colombia 2016 | INDUSTRY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Germán Forero, President of Gerfor, on the company's recent performance, the potential impact of the peace process on Colombian industry, and the outlook for the future

Germán Forero

How did Gerfor perform in 2015?

Gerfor had an excellent year in 2015. We had interesting growth and good profits. For many years, we have continued down this path of growth, and we expect to maintain it. We have introduced new technologies and are investing in human resources and improving the skills among our workforce. The construction industry in Colombia has developed recently and that has benefited us immensely; however, we have to be cautious of what happens in 3Q2016 as things might slow down. We will have to see what happens with the peace process and oil prices.

How do you think the manufacturing industry sector will evolve?

The sentiment is that things are going to improve. We see that the government wants to continue infrastructure projects, and if that is the case things are going to improve. However, nothing is agreed and there are no dates yet.

What are your views on the peace process, and how important will it will be in fortifying the economy?

It will be key; however, it is difficult to know what is going to happen because we do not know exactly what has been discussed and agreed to in Havana. Even though we have the peace process, another problem that Colombia has is corruption. Corruption is huge in Colombia, meaning although the peace process is important, corruption also needs to be tackled.

How do you think the industrial sector and economy can successfully absorb a part of the guerilla members?

There are some programs that the government has and we have contributed with some programs to try to incorporate children who lived the streets into the industry. In those cases it was difficult to integrate them into our workforce. The government has to have a road map and a well-defined program on how to bring these people into the industry and society. We have to train them and provide them with skills, because they are not used to living in society. We are willing to collaborate but we need the government to do something to help. For example, we need the government to train them before sending them to companies.

How can the devaluation of the peso open opportunities to foster industrialization in Colombia?

It is difficult for us to find certain raw materials in Colombia; hence, we need to import them, which could create problems if there are further devaluations.

What new investments is Gerfor planning?

We are doing several new investments. We are looking at important investments in training for human resources, which is important. We are also doing some automation to improve and enhance our processes. In addition to this there are some investments we need to make in software. We also have a plant in Guatemala that requires some investments.

Why do you have plants in Peru and Guatemala, instead of exporting locally produced products to these markets?

It is expensive to sell to these countries due to tax requirements. Besides, our products are not ones that are easy to export and people would rather buy locally. That is why we decided to go to Peru and Guatemala.

What advantages would you highlight for international investors looking to invest in Colombian industry?

The human factor is important in Colombia; people here are dynamic and energetic. The human capital is excellent, and I believe that is the main factor they should look at. Gerfor has nearly 1,200 employees in Colombia.

What is your outlook for the Colombian economy in 2016?

There are people who say that Colombia will have 3% growth and others say that it will be near 2%. To make those forecasts for a company such as ours is difficult; however, at a micro level we can say that things are starting to move.