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Free Trade Zone helps Barranquilla's development

Article - January 21, 2014
La Cayena is Colombia's largest industrial park, located at one of country's most important ports. It is also one of the main development factors for the surrounding community
Colombia’s main ports on the Atlantic coast – Santa Marta, Cartagena and Barranquilla – are becoming specialized in specific export areas. In Barranquilla’s case, the industrial sector is the specialty. La Cayena Free Trade Zone was founded with the idea of developing and promoting competitive businesses. 
It is an industrial park, though specifically for industrial purposes and as a construction cluster, tending mainly to the export sector, so as to be able to gain access to external markets. Being a Free Trade Zone also means, of course, that there are tax benefits, and being located in Barranquilla also gives its clients logistic advantages. Businesses established in the La Cayena FTZ may also benefit from its dedication to high-end technology that facilitates the installation and operation of its clients.  
La Cayena FTZ has been in business for over 5 years, and although it is not a long time, it has gained experience quickly: “We are already in the same place as the FTZs that have been around for over 15 or 50 years, because we learned from their work and their progress. This evolution has pushed us and our clients towards the market, helping us get to the top,” explains Mr. Felipe Arroyo, manager of La Cayena. 
He also explains that the benefits gained by businesses established inside a FTZ are thanks to the government’s policies of making tax exceptions for those companies. “It is meant to be a win-win situation. These businesses get certain benefits and the people of the areas they are established in get more employment options,” says Mr. Arroyo. 
Besides being situated in a beautiful and convenient port, the La Cayena has a lower rent rate than all of the FTZs around the rest of the country. While Colombia has a rate of 33 percent, La Cayena offers a 15 percent rate. Also, anything bought in the country is tax free. That way, using local raw materials is cheaper for the investing company and more productive for Colombia. 
La Cayena has just been expanded by 38 hectares, meaning more companies will be welcomed, which in turn will promote development in the region. It also means that La Cayena established itself as the largest FTZ industrial park in the country. “Until now, we have been working with larger companies, but the expansion will give us the chance to work with small and medium businesses as well,” explains Mr. Arroyo. 
Working with smaller businesses is important to the people of La Cayena, because it is part of their many efforts to support the community of Barranquilla. At the beginning, the people of the region saw that an industrial park wouldn’t actually be a form of employment for them, because it had traditionally been a farming and cattle sector. This meant the people of the community did not have the skills required to work in an industrial park. In noticing this, the FTZ decided to create a foundation to start educating children, young adults and adults in basic, vocational and technical skills respectively. 
“Our human capital is our most important asset,” says Mr. Arroyo and, on that note, La Cayena has taken a special interest in the formation of the people that work for them. They have found that this lack of industrial knowledge is a constant in many parts of the country, but they were also happy to find that in Barranquilla people have more of an export and industrial vocation, which makes them much more receptive to educational initiatives. 
In response, La Cayena has several programs that help the people of the region develop intellectually and economically. For example, they work with single mothers by giving them some small capital and all the assistance they require to develop a business inside the FTZ. 
They have another education-focused program called Searching for Excellence. It picks students in their last couple of years of high school and prepares them with personal teachers so they will be able to apply to the college scholarships that La Cayena offers. The idea is to prepare as many professionals as possible for the benefit and development of the poor communities that surround the FTZ.