The Business Year

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Panama is realizing the immense potential of its geographical location as a logistics hub and free trade zones are gearing up for the task.

Leo González

Administrator, Agencia Panama Pací­fico

Panama Pací­fico is one of the main projects in Panama with a mixed-use economic zone with residential, industrial, and commercial aspects, as well as an international airport on site, it is already impacting the Panamanian economy in a positive way. As the only mixed-use economic zone of its type in Latin America, the project is bringing multinational companies and is growing every year. We are delivering around 500 residential units per year, which is huge for a country such as Panama. On the industrial side, we are hitting around 400,000 sqm of warehousing. The target was 500,000 sqm in 40 years, but we have achieved 80% of our original goal in just 10 years. On average, three companies are entering Panama Pací­fico per month, with some big industrial names entering by end-2018. Our studies concluded that it takes a year and a half for a company to move its regional office, and we are working to improve that. Government projects outside Panama Pací­fico such as metro, bridges, and the widening of Pan-American road will have a great impact. Panama Pací­fico will create 9,000 direct and 5,000 indirect jobs. The salary and wage level at Panama Pací­fico is five times higher than the minimum wage in the highest wage area. Our most important aim is to attract and keep companies that generate quality jobs.

Aida Michelle U. Maduro

General Manager, PANEXPORT

PANEXPORT is privately owned and the first export-processing zone in Panama City. As a concept, free trade zones and any kind of processes for the handling of goods are still relatively new. Everyone recognizes Colón Free Trade Zone as the main player, so we have to add value to the products in order to attract new companies. It has been a hard evolutionary process because it is highly dependent on government’s policies. The cost of promotion is high, and we have to promote the country first and then the location within the country. The industry has evolved over the past 10 years, and now, there are 14 free zones in operation or under construction. During the past six years, we were experiencing a growth trend; however, in 2017 almost everything came to halt. New investments will arrive, because every change produces opportunity. 2018 will be a challenging year, and the election in 2019 will add some level of uncertainty to the mix. At present, we have 24 companies in total, and they focus on all sectors. The majority of them are rum producers, bottling for well-known brands. Whether or not we attract new companies to our zone depends on our ability to plan long term. The main goal is to develop value chains with all the free trade zones here and in the region.

Jorge Garcí­a Icaza

President, Jorge Garcí­a Icaza

Vacamonte Logistics Park is a family-owned property since 1826. As a result of its strategic location and proximity to the Bridge of the Americas, we decided to build a logistics park. We want to develop a community in the Vacamonte area, a space that consists of 600 acres. The logistics park was developed on 85ha; the first phase is now complete, including large access roads capable of handling large container shipments and the construction of an 8,000-sqm warehouse. We seek to attract three types of customers. We want to assist people bringing merchandise through the Panama Canal; there are many products that could be offloaded here, reprocessed, and reshipped via container ships or cargo aircraft. We are close to a number of airports that carry large cargo volumes, giving us a great leg up in terms of productivity. Our second customer base is businesses operating in Central America; Panama must become the port of Central America, and in order to ensure that, we must improve the transportation infrastructure. Our current customers are Mexican shipping firms and a US firm that brings technology from China to build pre-fabricated houses. Our third client base is distribution firms. In 2018, we hope to establish a free zone and begin construction on the second 8,000-sqm warehouse. This process should take about eight months because we have already completed the blueprints and the surveys.



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