GUIDE: An introduction to investment sectors in Barranquilla

Clinica Portoazul, Barranquilla's first medical center in a free trade zone for health. One of the benefits is tax free, state-of-the-art medical equipment. Photo by: Robert Narvaez

Barranquilla is the fourth largest city in Colombia after Bogota, Medellin, and Cali. The city is characterized by having significant advantages for industrial and commercial trade. Barranquilla’s port is most important to the country because of the technological advances flowing through such as radio, film, telephone service, inland waterways and rail.

Barranquilla is a strategic location for trade and has the following competitive aspects:

• The city is only two hours from the nearby ports of Santa Marta and Cartagena (less than 100 kilometers). Also, American Airlines and Avianca offer direct daily flights between Barranquilla and Miami.

• The city has a large port infrastructure including more than ten terminals enabling efficient trade with the rest of the country and worldwide.

• Barranquilla has spaces for businesses such as offices, shopping centers, industrial parks and export processing zones with competitive prices and excellent infrastructure. Among the most important free trade zones are Zofia, Malambo Industrial Park (PIMSA), The Cayenne Free Zone, and the Industrial and Commercial Metroparque Caribbean.

• The cost of living is considered competitive for its inhabitants. Barranquilla is one of the major cities in Colombia offering frequent cultural events such as the Carnaval of Barranquilla, Barranquijazz, Miche Rock Festival, Sabor Barranquilla, and Barranquilla Fashion Week, among others.

Likewise, the growth of commercial infrastructure projects such as the construction of the Avenida del Rio, the development of the new convention center Puerta de Oro, the recovery of the historic downtown, and the renovation of the sports epicenters for the Central American and Caribbean Games 2018 are some of the most important projects aimed at turning Barranquilla from an industrial port city to a preferred destination for business tourism.

Which economic sectors offer the best potential for investment in Barranquilla?

Probarranquilla is the nonprofit agency responsible for the promotion of investment in Barranquilla and the Department of Atlantico. Their mission is promoting sustainable economic development and investment incentives to domestic and foreign companies to invest in the city and the department.

Probarranquilla offers free support to investors through services such as information and analysis on requirements for company formation, and also advice and support through relationships with key institutions and identifying strategic sites for the installation of business or offices.

Sectors for investment in Barranquilla:

Chemicals and Plastics: This is the main export sector of Atlantico with 35% of industrial exports. One of the main advantages of investing in this sector is the support from the National Government to boost the agricultural sector throughout the country, as well as the international food demand. Companies like Dow Chemical, UCPL, Bayer, and Monómeros Colombo Venezolanos are examples of companies with foreign capital that have established their corporate businesses in Barranquilla.

Metalworking: This is the second largest export sector throughout the department. The Port of Barranquilla is the number one exit point of pre-processed metal products, and also handles 40% of the steel imports for the entire country. International companies such as ThyssenKrupp, Ternium, CSP Steel, Norton, and Triple S have plants in the city.

Logistics and Transportation: Because of their location, Barranquilla and the Department of Atlantico are positioned as one of the best multimodal platforms for the logistics sector: Aircraft, Cargo, Train, and Ship through both river and sea. Barranquilla is essentially functioning as the primary entrance and exit of Colombia. The government has already allocated resources for the recovery of the Rio Magdalena, to maximize freight mobility. Similarly, the Ernesto Cortissoz Airport will be able to handle additional traffic soon after the planned renovation.

BPO & IT: The sector of BPO & IT is one that has a sustained growth due to the quality of human talent (professionals and students) as well as different government initiatives to convert Colombia into one of the leading countries in the IT industry. Wage costs in human capital are more competitive than the other major cities of the country and the quality of educational programs is superior with a high emphasis on bilingualism (English), making it an attractive city to invest in IT companies, Contact Center and professional services.

Also, Barranquilla and the Caribbean have an IT Cluster called CaribeTic which coordinates and creates projects and partnerships between business, academia and state.

Pharmaceuticals: In recent years, Barranquilla has become the fourth city in the country with the largest number of pharmaceutical companies. Companies like Bayer have production facilities located in a suburb called Soledad.

Health Tourism: Barranquilla’s health sector has seen an increase in growth of healthcare institutions and specialized medical centers. Clinical projects like Portoazul, which is considered the first certified medical free-zone along Colombia’s Caribbean Coast and the creation of the health cluster led by the chamber of commerce have offered people a high range of specialized services such as Ophthalmology, Cardiology, Plastic Reconstructive Surgery, Cosmetic Surgery, and Traumatology.

As you have read, Barranquilla is a great hub for businesses to invest their capital, not to mention the strategic location of its’ port for importing and exporting throughout the country and the rest of Latin America. You can find additional information on investments by visiting Probarranquilla’s website; where you can also read their site in English.