THE UNSTOPPABLE CITY-STATE

Colombia 2018 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Sergio Escobar, Executive Director of ACI Medellín, on creating a higher quality of life for the inhabitants of Medellín, rising markets for local industries, and the city's important growth during a national lull.

Sergio Escobar
BIOGRAPHY
Having held various positions in the public sector at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the embassies of Colombia in Italy, Costa Rica, Brazil, and Mexico, Sergio Escobar has also been Director of PROEXPORT/ProColombia in Costa Rica and Mexico. He was also vice president of Fedemetal, a senior partner of Candiani Mining, and an advisor to several companies across Colombia. A member of several corporate executive boards in Colombia and Mexico and international organizations in the US, he has also taught international trade and affairs in Colombia, Brazil, Mexico, and the US. A widely published author, he was awarded the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize in 2016 for his work in innovative urban development.

How has the agency evolved over the past 15 years?

We have been working extremely hard in the past 15 years to create a better Medellín, not because we want a better reputation in the world, but because we want to provide a higher quality of life for the people who live here and those who visit us. We have been working in different businesses, attracting international cooperation as well as national and international investment. We are doing great, not only because we have solid numbers, but because those who bet on a new field of expansion are able to find the human talent they need here. We want to be different and do not need to compare ourselves to other Colombian or Latin American cities. We want to give foreign investors the confidence that Medellín is the ideal place where they can create a platform to open up new local, regional, national, and international businesses

What are the main highlights of the 'Why Medellín?' event hosted in Mexico last year?

We have one tool to attract international investment, and we call it 'Why Medellín?' which seeks to capture the attention of businessmen, entrepreneurs, and investors and demonstrate that we know how to play in the international field. Today, we are partners in the Pacific Alliance. Medellín is now host to many large projects in different fields, including manufacturing, services, logistics, and education. We will renovate the city's downtown area and invest COP4.2 billion every year until 2019 on this project alone. We want to make our downtown different and enjoyable. This will be a PPP, and both the private and public sectors are working hard on this. Even though Colombia's GDP growth for 2017 was likely 1.7%, that of Medellín was 7.1%.

80% of the investment that reaches Medellín comes from abroad. Where is this coming from, and which markets do you target?

We target special countries, though there have been investors from places where we have not promoted Medellín to before, such as Singapore, South Korea, and so on, which was a pleasant surprise. Thus far, we have received investment from the US, Spain, France, Germany, Brazil, Mexico, and Chile, as well as from Switzerland, Guatemala, the Netherlands, UK, and Panama. Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and even Ghana could also be fruitful markets.

What are your expectations for the end of this year?

We targeted total FDI of USD200 million in 2017 and as of September 30 had reached USD372 million. In terms of sectors, innovation, manufacturing, and agroindustry are the key fields of investment that have come to Medellín. For many decades, this was an important manufacturing city; now, we are working on becoming a services city as well. We also target different fields such as health, energy, construction, STI, and the aerospace industry, since we seek to provide maintenance services to the different types of planes flying in Latin America. We are currently improving an important aerospace industry cluster whose headquarters are in the international airport. Today, there are 16 different private companies providing these services that have already been certified by Airbus, Boeing, and other key private air airlines. We now have 10 more companies on our list seeking to be new partners here.