COLOMBIA - Economy
Executive Director, Invest in Bogotá
Isabella is Executive Director of Invest in Bogotá, the investment promotion agency for the city, a public-private partnership between the Bogotá Chamber of Commerce and the Bogotá City Government. She was an early promoter of the private equity industry in Colombia since 2008. Prior to joying Invest in Bogotá, she was partner of MAS Equity Partners, a pioneer private equity fund manager in the Andean Region and previously she served as Executive Director of Colombian Association of Private Equity Funds in Colombia—ColCapital—since its inception. She has more than 16 years of experience in private equity and venture capital funds, entrepreneurship, investments and business structuring with firms like Endeavor, International High Impact Entrepreneurship Consultant Firm- as search and selection associate, Bancóldex, Colombian Developing Bank, as private equity and venture capital associate, Deceval, Colombian Central Securities Depository, as a new business developer executive and Davivienda, Colombian Commercial Bank, as junior trader. She was member of the boards of Pelpak, TGT Gamas and ColCapital. Also, Isabella is founder of WAI – Women in Alternative Investment, a network aimed at promoting, encouraging and empowering women within the Alternative Investments Industry. Industrial Engineering from Javeriana University, and received a Graduate Diploma (Specialization) in Economics from Andes University.
What factors make Colombia unique and give business leaders the confidence to invest in Bogotá?
The region received over USD481 million in direct and indirect investment within the first quarter of 2021. The estimation that we have here at the Invest in Bogotá project is that the flow of new and expanded investment within the Bogotá region grew around 39% in 2021. Bogotá is also set to attract more indirect investment from sectors such as value-added manufacturing, e-commerce, and nearshoring operations, which is a new term that everyone is talking about because what is currently happening with worldwide logistics. Infrastructure is another key sector for us and our city. There are also creative industries, technology-based services, life sciences and entrepreneurship that are a part of the strategy to attract more investment to the city. Bogotá is the economic, cultural, and administrative center of Colombia. This is also the gateway for the Latin American market due to its location and political stability, as our neighbors are not in as good or stable a political shape. The pandemic established a new commercial landscape in which Bogotá has great opportunities to become a relevant player in Latin America for the aforementioned sectors. Bogotá bet on boosting the attraction of different projects in the coming years.
What attributes make Bogotá appealing for investment?
On the macro side, it is the political stability and economic development. We used to talk about it but it is important to remind people that Bogotá has a strategic location at the center of Latin America. Thanks to its strategic location and air connections, many companies have chosen Bogotá as the regional headquarters, service center, and logistical hub to serve Latin America. Another key point is the FDI intelligence and analysis of the Financial Times, which recently ranked the American cities of the future in 2021/22. Bogotá ranked the second-most important city in Latin America, surpassed only by Mexico City. We were also recognized in another category: FDI attraction. Moreover, Bogotá was eighth among all ranked cities alongside other key players such as New York, Montreal, Atlanta, and Chicago. Bogotá’s position also places it as the city with the best investment attraction in South America. It is the best FDI proposition in Latin America and among all countries on the continent, we are number eight, which is very impressive. There are 6 million young and skilled people in the workforce in Bogotá and this will ensure the capabilities of any operation. The city has 135 institutional higher education facilities that enrolled over 850,000 students in 2019. They also graduated over 193,000 professionals and technicians. Colombia has one of the most flexible labor regimes in Latin America. Bogotá has 10 million people, but the workforce is estimated at 6 million, which is very large when compared with other countries. GDP derived from Bogotá exceeds that of certain entire countries in Central and South America. Its GDP exceeds that of the Dominican Republic, Salvador, Paraguay, and others. I should also mention that Bogotá has a high quality, worry free, operating environment. There is a supply of quality, cost-competitive, offices, warehousing, and manufacturing space. The city has telecom connectivity and excellent utilities, and is a major land and air cargo transportation center. It is a natural logistic hub for Colombia. Bogotá has all the corporate services needed by investors.€¨
What is Invest in Bogotá’s impact?
Regarding Invest in Bogotá, although the pandemic hit the development and growth of the city in 2020 we campaigned for the arrival of 30 new investments and expansion projects for the city; an estimated USD114 million in total. We also estimate that those companies generate over 5,000 direct jobs for the city. In 2019, we accompanied 48 projects, marking a personal record. And in 2021, we reached our goal and attracted 35 new investments in the city. Our goal for 2022 is to attract at least 40 new investments. We are growing rapidly. Since our creation in 2006, Invest in Bogotá, which is an initiative of the Mayor’s Office of Bogotá and the City Chambers of Commerce, has supported the development of over 450 projects for companies in Bogotá. One in three projects that come to the city are brought in by Invest in Bogotá, amounting to 33% of the total.
What type of business links are Invest in Bogotá’s focus?€¨
Our mission is to attract investment in general, and we work to identify foreign companies keen to make Bogotá an operational hub for the country or wider region. On the other hand, we have a pipeline of projects for the city that we can offer companies such as private equity funds, venture capital funds, or any kind of investments participating in the projects the city has to offer. This includes infrastructure projects and entrepreneurship. Colombia is experiencing a boom in entrepreneurship, and we need to articulate the investments of those companies who are moving faster and forward that could be attractive for investments.
Through which mechanisms does Invest in Bogotá deliver and what processes are in place to help the business community?€¨
We align with the strategy of the city because our stakeholders are the Mayor and the Chamber of Commerce. We focus on the key sectors offering an appealing opportunity for international investors. We have different units in our agency that work closely and specialize in the different economic sectors to ensure that we have a deep understanding of the sector and its opportunities. On one hand, we are proactive and are very active in campaigns and visits to countries most likely to show interest in Bogotá. We are analyzing which countries, sectors, and types of companies that we need in Bogotá. We are generating content, analyzing trends, and making connections that allow us to receive actionable information daily. We develop content through our webpage and the media so as to position Bogotá internationally as a business-friendly city
What work is being done in terms of gender diversity?
Diversity is not a matter of trends, but a must. Companies and countries understand that diversity is part of greater economic growth. This means not only women, but religion, culture, and races are also all a part of diversity. As soon as a company or economy becomes diverse, it begins to generate a higher return. Diversity is essential to attract investment. There are more women than men employed at Invest in Bogotá. Three out of the five managers are women. Meanwhile, Colombia has seen the establishment of numerous new women’s networks that support business and specific industries, and that also champion economically excluded youth. Those networks are built to support that new trend and give hope to the younger population.
What sectors stand out as areas of opportunity for business in Colombia?
I would mention sectors like infrastructure. We have a lot of infrastructure and are promoting numerous city projects such as the metro tram, hospitals, a water treatment plant, and healthcare services and life sciences. Bogotá has extensive healthcare services, and many international companies are keen to settle in Bogotá to produce and manufacture medical devices and pharmaceuticals. We also intend to position Bogotá as a hub of rapidly advancing e-commerce. The industry requires logistics and management and we believe that Bogotá is in a good position to meet the challenge. Entrepreneurship and innovation are other good opportunities for the city. We were recently selected by the Global Start-up Ecosystem Report as the second-best ecosystem in Latin America for entrepreneurship, after Mexico City. This is an important and objective confirmation of our capacity to accommodate entrepreneurship.
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