TBY talks to Jose C. Santos, Country Director of Odebrecht Ecuador, on the company's commitment to the local economy and Ecuador's development.

After 25 years in the country, how significant is Ecuador for the company?

Ecuador has been and remains a cornerstone for the company´s international operations. During these 25 years in Ecuador we have been bilateral trade promoters in the export of engineering and construction services from Brazil to Ecuador, developing projects worth over $1 billion, most of them with official financial support from Brazil. Ecuador's importance for the company is further reflected in the more than 700 Ecuadoreans currently working for the organization both in Ecuador and abroad. Odebrecht is a global company with a local presence. We strive to act like a local company in every country we are present, thus providing global know-how and resources to address local needs, while adapting to local conditions, seeking and training qualified and motivated individuals, and becoming part of the countries we are in.

In what sectors has Odebrecht been involved since it entered the country?

Every developing country presents considerable challenges and opportunities for construction companies. Ecuador is no exception, especially in the areas of energy, water, waste-water treatment, and intermodal infrastructure projects such as roads and harbors. Our previous projects in Ecuador have been related to water management and flood-prevention infrastructure, as river basins experience extreme flooding and drought cycles almost every year. The importance of flood control and the potential benefits and impact of these types of projects on the economy and well-being of the population and the environmental importance of proper water management practices motivates us to stick to these types of activities.

“We strive to act as a local company with global expertise."

What are the main projects Odebrecht is working on at this moment?

We are currently working on the rehabilitation of the Pucara Hydropower Plant, which provides 73 MW of capacity to the national grid, and we were recently awarded a contract for the construction of Manduriacu, with an estimated capacity of 60 MW, the first of seven hydropower plants that will be installed along the Guayllabamba River basin.

How has the company's semi-autonomy from its headquarters in Brazil allowed you to develop relationships with local firms?

We strive to act as a local company with global expertise, and thus we tend to establish partnerships with local firms as much as possible. However, any partnership is like a marriage, where the parties have to know each other well and share the same principles and goals. Therefore, we seek companies with similar standards of excellence and performance and which have a genuine commitment to fulfill our clients' needs. During our years in Ecuador we have developed a very solid network of local construction partners, banks, insurance companies, and others. We have grown with our partners and look forward to future opportunities together as well as establishing new partnerships with other firms.

What opportunities are there for diversification?

Odebrecht is always looking for new opportunities in construction and in many other areas, such as energy (whether as a contractor or as a concession operator), oil and gas, petrochemicals, industrial water and sewage treatment, and ethanol production. If opportunities arise we are willing to venture into these areas.

© The Business Year - January 2012