This past week, Mayor Char travelled to Washington, DC, where he met with senior US government officials to discuss the growth of Barranquilla and to promote discussion between the two governments on the topics of international tourism, sports and commercial investment.
We’re open for Business!
The US government is heavily invested in Colombia’s future and in fact, as part of the now complete Plan Colombia, they spent approximately USD $10 billion across the last decade and a half, helping Colombia achieve peace. Now, with Plan Peace well underway, they have committed to spending an additional USD $450 million annually towards furthering security, reintegrating combatants into society and rebuilding the areas of the country which have been ravaged by war for so long. In this way, the United States government has positioned itself as a key strategic partner with Colombia, and by extension, cities such as Barranquilla.
“Just as we did 15 years ago, we intend to bet on Colombia’s success. We’re united by a common vision — a future that is more just, and more equitable, and more prosperous for all of our people.” – US President Barack Obama at a reception in February.
On Thursday, Mayor Char met with William Brownfield, the ex-ambassador to Colombia who is now an official representing the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. They spoke at length on plans to maintain order and improve security. They also spoke about the upcoming Central American and Caribbean Games which will take place in Barranquilla in 2018 with Char sharing the blueprints for the Games’ planned new stadium.
Char’s primary objective was his meeting with the Global Markets team of the US Department of Commerce. Led by John Andersen, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Department of Commerce in the Western Hemisphere, this group is accountable for the promotion of economic growth in foreign markets. They spoke about the progress that has been made across the last fifteen years and about how Barranquilla has become a solid center for international investment. Mayor Char also laid out his plans for the new convention center being built on the shores of the Magdalena and expressed his desire that it become a global hub.
“We’re open for business with the rest of the world,” Char later said. “We explained that Barranquilla is ready to do business with other cities around the world and we want to be the base of offshore investment and for this we are preparing all our people. We are also confident that with the opening of the Golden Gate event center, we will receive fairs and US investors.”
La Puerta de Oro (The Golden Gate) convention center, which is expected to begin business early next year, is the largest such facility in Colombia. Covering an immense 75,500 square meters, the facility will contain exhibition grounds for some 16,000 people, a tourist pier where visitors can moor their boats, a convention facility with capacity for 4000 people, and four business towers of between 20 and 25 floors, each of which will be purposed for hotels, offices and casinos. The facility is the result of a public-private partnership with funding at USD $135 million.
After the meeting, Deputy Assistant Secretary Andersen noted, “In our country we know all about the growth process your city has undertaken, and we are also aware of the advances the previous mayor, Elsa Noguera made, and we are sure you will continue along the same path in Barranquilla.”