"In order to take full advantage of these FTAs, the country needs to strengthen logistics chains."
The Valle del Cauca has managed to attract and successfully host international events such as the VII Pacific Alliance Summit and the World Games of 2013. How has the region worked to better position itself in the international arena?
Those involved in regional development have the common goal of building trust. Fortunately, too, Cali and the region are two prosperous areas of Colombia that for unfortunate reasons suffered from serious deterioration in the past. However, over the past few years, the local authorities, along with the national government, have worked to turn that situation around. That’s why building trust is important, and I have to say that we have succeeded so far. The region also has certain unique elements such as the Buenaventura Maritime Terminal and Port, with its state-of-the-art infrastructure on the Colombian Pacific coast, through which roughly 50% of the country’s cargo passes. Although, in terms of infrastructure, we still have a long road ahead of us, we have already come a long way and there are some important ongoing projects. All this investment in infrastructure will boost Buenaventura’s role at the national level.
What advantages does the Pacific Alliance offer to the Valle del Cauca region?
I think such initiatives are key to strengthening the formalization of employment in the region. For example, our free trade zone (FTZ) brought in a business model that hadn’t been implemented here before. Such elements boost the industrialization of the region, too, improving the development of regional cities and generating employment opportunities.
“In order to take full advantage of these FTAs, the country needs to strengthen logistics chains.”
What role does CELPA play in the government’s efforts to generate formal employment opportunities linked to the development of Buenaventura?
We operate in a city in which unemployment and informal employment used to have a major impact on the local economy. I would even say that the ports were the only two entities generating significant formal employment opportunities before our arrival. In this context, we were established in 2012 and we implemented an employment strategy along with the national government that included large investments and the generation of qualified human resources that, in turn, made investment in our FTZ more attractive. In this context, we started implementing training courses in 2H2013 to teach a broader section of the local population about the technical and operational aspects of FTZs. Our idea is to train future business leaders for companies arriving here, as well as provide a skilled and qualified workforce. In this context, we have also implemented personalized training programs for specific companies. All in all, I think we are on the right track, which will be borne out over time. I think that once CELPA Permanent Free Trade Zone becomes 100% operative, in around three years time, we will be generating around 2,000 direct job positions in Buenaventura.
How relevant is the Maritime Port of Buenaventura for Colombia? What role does CELPA play in the development of the Port of Buenaventura?
Colombia offers a very attractive, competitive, and interesting FTZ business model. In this context, CELPA enjoys a privileged geostrategic location next to the main maritime infrastructure on the Pacific coast, which handles roughly 50% of Colombia’s foreign trade. This activity impacts Colombia’s entire economy. CELPA is the base, offering services that address the demands and requirements of the Port of Buenaventura. In this context, the port is in a process of specialization and we are the industrial and logistics platform that will achieve this.
What are CELPA’s plans to develop the 348,000-sqm site?
We plan to invest $50 million in the urbanization and development of infrastructure in the FTZ. Currently, we have already invested $15 million as part of the first stage of development of the overall project. We are aware that we hold in our hands a promising and interesting project; however, we need to build trust among the investor community, which is only achieved by demonstrating the tangible development of the project itself. In this context, certain large banking institutions that believe in this project are supporting us, which definitely helps to build credibility. Also, I think we have achieved a common understanding between local authorities and the private sector on the future development of the city and the wider region. Therefore, this has been our main focus at this stage of development; to build trust and show that we are developing an economically viable and significant project. This will generate further investment for the project’s subsequent stages of development that will continue to generate employment opportunities. CELPA always had the mission of establishing itself as a pre- and post-maritime port, industrial, and logistics platform located close to the Port of Buenaventura. In this context, we have a clear logistics and industrial vocation as a FTZ. Local authorities can support that with the development of strong educational and health platforms, as well as great infrastructure connectivity. Overall, I think we generate value-added for the Port of Buenaventura and the companies operating in it and around the port.
How will the recently signed free trade agreements (FTAs) between Colombia and other countries impact CELPA’s activity?
In order to take full advantage of these FTAs, the country needs to strengthen logistics chains and platforms adjacent to its main maritime ports and airports, which will reduce production costs and make our industries even more competitive. CELPA can benefit very much from these FTAs, positioning itself as a tool for local and foreign investors to generate value-added and develop industrial activity, allowing them also to reach strategic markets from its operating centers. We should keep in mind that today, globalization renders the entire world our audience, which demands high efficiency and the exploitation of such facilities as FTAs.
What are the competitive advantages of CELPA as an FTZ?
We offer a promising and real platform in Buenaventura that did not exist before. We are an industrial and logistics platform that offers total legal security and support, located next to the Port of Buenaventura, which helps to reduce production costs. CELPA allows investors to get a return on their investment within five years thanks to the tax environment that we offer, which means more efficient and profitable companies make the FTZ their base.
© The Business Year – July 2014