Chile may be “hidden behind the Andes,” as Juan Antonio Figueroa, head of InvestChile says, but he emphasizes that it is a very complete and varied country which people should invest in and see for themselves.
“Chile chose a development model that is open to the world, one which is based – like many other emerging economies today – on natural resources, and that is what we want to change,” says Mr. Figueroa. “We want to make that leap from being a natural-resource-based economy to one that is more supported by technology, services and products of high added value, which ultimately is the key to enabling sustained growth over time.”
An agency of Corfo, the Chilean government’s economic development agency, InvestChile helps investors recognize the country’s full potential in order to facilitate and promote domestic and foreign investment.
InvestChile mainly targets specific private-sector investments and serves as an initial entry point for foreign investors in the country.
“We must help the enterprise or the investor to navigate through the local economy, to have contacts with all other public agencies, authorities, with individuals, with potential partners, real estate companies, with headhunting companies, etc.,” says Mr. Figueroa. “Materializing investment for us is not simply a forum to invite you to come, tell us your idea, and we tell you how good it is for you to invest in Chile. Instead, we make an agenda and we assign an account executive to guide you.”
|‘WE WANT EACH AND EVERY COMPANY THAT IS SET UP IN CHILE TO FEEL THAT THEY HAVE ALL THE HUMAN RESOURCES THEY NEED’|
At the moment, InvestChile sees opportunities in five sectors: the food industry, mining supplies, global services, biotechnology, and manufacturing and assembly of components and parts. “We are always thinking of new technologies to attract investors,” says Mr. Figueroa. “In the food industry, we are very focused on attracting companies that add value to the industry at production level, the issue is biotechnology and new processes through more efficient machinery in harvesting, producing, or agribusiness.”
As mentioned, offshoring is also a sector Chile can contribute to, as the country holds high industry rankings in this regard. In this vein, InvestChile has a scholarship program in English for 4,000 trainees this year, with 8,000 students having completed the program in the past three years.
“We want each and every company that is set up in Chile to feel that they have all the human resources they need, and that if they require anything, we can help them to acquire professionals in the industry – from engineering, architecture, design, financial services and banking – who are trained in areas like the English language.”
InvestChile promotes these investment opportunities through fairs, meetings, and offices abroad. They currently have offices in Spain, Italy, Germany, Nordic countries, India and China, and together with ProChile, they will open additional offices in the U.S., Brazil, and France. “It is important for InvestChile to bring good foreign talent and to install some major companies in the country to close the gap,” says Mr. Figueroa.
Chile has the highest average annual growth rate in Latin America, with an annual growth rate from 1985 to 2009 of 5.5%, and leads the world in number of free trade agreements, with 58 countries. The U.S. is the third largest bilateral trading partner for the country, as trade has doubled since the two countries signed a free trade agreement. “The United States is a key partner in the areas of entrepreneurship, innovation and attracting talent,” comments Mr. Figueroa. “Attracting investments is what allows us to call ourselves an economic development agency.”
He adds, “We have much to offer. When people first come to Chile they are very surprised, due to our economic and political stability, economic success story, free trade agreements, and quality of life. In Santiago, not only are you just an hour from the mountains, but you also have the sea, wine trails an hour and a half away, the northern desert, the clearest of nights and amazing astronomy, as well as Patagonia etc. In short, it is a very complete and exceptionally varied country. Come and see it for yourself.”