15 MAJOR PROJECTS IN 3 YEARS

Colombia 2019 | ECONOMY | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Juan Gabriel Pérez, Executive Director of Invest in Bogota, on the city's creative industry, major projects in recent years, and tax reform in 2019.

How would you evaluate the investment climate in Bogotá in the last year?

2017 was a great year for the city, since certain interesting strategic sectors consolidated. Bogotá better positioned every year as a global business destination. For instance, América Economía ranked us the fourth-most attractive city in Latin America, when 15 years ago we were in 16th place. Bogotá has an interesting value proposal regarding the size of its economy; it is the same size as the economy of Ecuador and is bigger than countries like Uruguay, Paraguay, Costa Rica, and Panama. The human talent in Bogotá is also key. There are more than 115 higher education institutions, and every year more than 140,000 students graduate from these universities, 33% of them with postgraduate degrees. A third of the country's tech professionals are in Bogotá. We continue to work to make Bogotá a city not just with a better investment climate but also a better quality of life. That is what people seek when they move to a city like ours: gastronomy, culture, arts and public spaces, and events. We work on more than 25 business-oriented events, like ARTBO (International Art Fair of Bogotá), Bogotá Audiovisual Market, Music Market, and Bogotá Fashion Week.

Which sectors in Bogotá receive the most attention from foreign investors?

In Bogotá, currently, the local government and the chamber of commerce are working together on a development agenda. The city is not only strengthening its service sector, but also providing new opportunities for manufacturing. Invest in Bogota has currently five teams, two of them working in the service sector: one is oriented toward value-added services and the other is on creative industries. The national government is also interested in this digital content industry, and Bogotá will certainly benefit. Regarding the manufacturing sector, we have two teams: one focused on the healthcare industry and the other one on manufactured products that can be sent via air, such as processed food, construction material, and electronic devices. We are looking at Chinese products that now have a tariff in the American market, so we can export our products to the US. The fifth team is infrastructure oriented. There are great challenges to be solved concerning mobility, urban development and logistics, and we are currently prioritizing 10 projects out of more than 40 that have been studied. These 10 main projects represent more than USD13 billion, and this could be an area for investment where foreign companies help the city's development. Some of these projects include a subway system, a second terminal of the airport, and a water treatment plant. All these projects are part of the work we do here. We help the city find global investors that can help build the infrastructure that Bogotá needs.

What is the role of the creative industries in Bogotá, and how does Bogotá stand out in this sense?

Bogotá has been working in the creative industry sector for more than two years, and there is currently encouragement from the federal government. The Bogotá Audiovisual Market, which gathers producers, filmmakers, and so on, is an event we have been working on. Almost 80% of the companies in Colombia in the audiovisual sector are in Bogotá. It is also one of the sectors that is rapidly growing. In the last 10 years, 50 projects have arrived in the city, and in the last three years, with Invest in Bogota, we have brought in 15 big projects. Bogotá is now seen as a business hub. There is a significant number of companies setting up in the city and using the human talent, the strategic geographical location, and the neutrality of the language. This sector has a bright future.

What other industries and sectors is Invest in Bogotá interested in?

All industries are welcome in our city. The fact that they are not in these priority sectors does not mean they cannot use what we have. The services sector represents the 62% of the city's GDP. Business services are also increasingly important. The city must continue to invest in education and formation. We are currently working with the Chamber of Commerce, which is one of the biggest in Latin America, with more than 450,000 affiliates, to bridge the gap between the needs of companies and the graduates of higher education institutions, so that it matches the requirement of the business sector. We have made considerable efforts with the Ministry of Labor, Secretariat of Economic Development, the Chamber of Commerce, and more. The city has a strong long-term vision.

What will be the expectations, challenges, and changes for Invest in Bogotá in 2019?

The trade war between the US and Asia is a situation that we need to monitor closely. Another challenge is the tax reform currently taking place in Colombia; we need our taxes to be competitive with other countries. Another aspect is enhancing free zones, so that Bogotá has some of these zones inside the city, and companies do not have to go outside of the city. We are optimistic about 2019. We have at least 40 projects in mind and are looking for major global companies to settle in the city, which will help with Bogotá's development, promotion, and transformation. We also need to continue to work side by side with the local administration and the federal government to have better results. In the last twelve years, Invest in Bogotá has helped bring about more than USD2.5 billion in investment and more than 34,000 direct jobs. For 2019, we expect around USD400-500 million and 5,000 new jobs.