HIGHWAY TO HELIOPOLIS

Costa Rica 2017 | CONSTRUCTION & REAL ESTATE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Fernándo Sánchez Sirias, General Manager of Constructora Sanchez Carvajal, on diversifying one's portfolio, adapting to the country's needs, and synergizing with the public sector.

Fernándo Sánchez Sirias
BIOGRAPHY
Fernándo Sánchez Sirias started to work in the public sector in 1976 and in 1978 moved to the private sector, first working at Firestone of Costa Rica in the administrative and financial sectors. In 1980, he started at Constructora Sánchez Carvajal. Sirias held the position of president of the Board of Directors of the Chamber of Highway and Bridge Builders, was part of the Board of Directors of the San José Branch of Banco Credito Agrícola of Cartago, and was part of the price adjustment committee of the Costa Rican Chamber of Commerce Construction.

Since 1961, Sanchez Carvajal has positioned itself as one of the four big construction companies in Costa Rica. What strategy have you followed to achieve these results?

At the beginning of our operations, we focused on the construction of roads across the country. However, as time passed we understood the need to adapt ourselves to the needs of the country, the market, and our company. We broadened our project portfolio with the construction of hydroelectric plants, maritime port repair works, etc. Two of the key elements in our strategy have been flexibility and adaptability. Over this period, we have mainly worked with the public sector, but have also developed certain projects with the private sector—mainly hydroelectric projects.

What trends do you see becoming more popular in the construction sector?

The country must adapt to what the sector and the economy requires. In the last few years, the market demand increased for more sophisticated end products. Infrastructure is a key element within the final price of finished goods; the fewer infrastructure projects you have, the higher the cost, production, and distribution costs companies will have. The more and better infrastructure you have, the more competitive you are as a country, and in the last few years competitors have reduced costs in this sense. Good-quality infrastructure also promotes growth of the country's GDP. Our aspiration as a country has to be to develop the necessary infrastructure to enable Costa Rica to compete with similar countries and markets. Today, we do not have the necessary infrastructure to make our industry and farmers competitive in global markets. In this context, the administration faces the challenge of making income flow more rapidly within the national economy.

How has the company contributed to the social and economic development of Costa Rica over the last 60 years?

We only need to look at the public projects we have handled and the investment made in infrastructure at the national level in the last few decades. The country's GDP grew exponentially during this time, too. In this context, we can conclude that when there is investment in infrastructure, Costa Rica's GDP grew more than when there was no investment in infrastructure. This is due to the fact that, among other things, we generate employability for the country and, along with that, more consumption. In this context, we can assure that the more consumption there is, the more income we generate for the country. This leads to more funds to invest in areas such as education and poverty reduction.

What is the split between public and private customers in your portfolio?

At the moment, 85% of our customer portfolio is composed of public customers and 15% of private ones. One of the turning points in our development in the last decade was the construction of an African palm oil plant. This project was a public initiative and came at a time when there were not many infrastructure projects in the industry.

In which areas is your company focusing its efforts for 2017?

One of our main objectives is to continue contributing to the economic and social development of the country. At the same time, it is important for us to keep holding the social values we have built our company on, for we believe it is crucial in a world where social and environmental responsibility have become that relevant in every industry. In terms of projects, the Chilamate-Vuelta Kooper road should be completed, and the government is also doing its best to complete the San Carlos road in 2017.