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Hamilton Economic Development

Major trade mission coming to Hamilton in October

Hamilton is looking for more than memories and medals out of the Pan Am Games.

Along with Niagara Region, the city hopes to score big with a trade delegation from Colombia coming to Hamilton in late October — a deal arranged during the Games.

Under the deal announced Tuesday, 70 companies from the South American country will come here in October to buy and sell products and services, mostly in the information and communication technology field.

Alvaro Concha, Colombia’s trade commissioner to Canada, told a gathering at Mohawk College the companies are coming here to sell software and to entice Canadian firms to invest in a country with a rapidly growing economy.

“It’s about connecting Canadian companies with Colombian companies in the ICT sectors. What we’re trying to offer as a country is for Canadian companies to source in Colombia or to find opportunities to invest in our country,” he said.

“ICT is a very easy industry to connect because everything is just a click away,” he added. “We see Colombia as a key player in that sector.”

Concha said Colombia offers many points to attract Canadians with money to invest — the country’s middle class is growing rapidly, its gross domestic product hit $600 billion last year and its foreign trade swelled to $60 billion — $1.8 billion of that was with Canada.

ICT segment sales were more than $2.2 billion — the third highest in Latin America, he said.

The companies coming to Hamilton and Toronto in October will have software to sell in the gaming and mobile applications fields, among others. They’ll also be looking for partners to invest in their country.

One of the challenges to getting Canadian companies interested in Colombia, Concha said, is a general lack of awareness.

“Part of this event is to create that awareness and show what Colombia is all about in IT,” he said. “The October event has to be a high-level one so we can impact and spread the word in a very strong way, to put Colombia on the radar.”

Once known as one of the most violent countries on Earth, ruled by warring drug cartels, Concha said his nation now offers a safe haven for investors.

The World Bank’s annual Doing Business report for 2015 ranked Colombia “No. 1 for being the friendliest country to do business and the No. 1 in Latin America for being the best to protect investors,” he said.

The Wall Street Journal has been similarly complimentary.

Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger said he’s hoping Colombian companies coming in October will also be looking to invest and buy products and services.

“What we have is a stable economy. If they want to expand their business, they are looking for a stable economy to invest in,” he said. “Some people are still worried about the politics and the dynamics down there. Even though it’s stable at the moment, it tends to be volatile. They want a safe haven to invest and grow their business, and Hamilton and Canada are seen as that safe haven.”

Wednesday’s announcement is part of the Economic Development Department’s Americas Investment Playbook, a strategy developed with Niagara Region to use the Pan Am Games as a chance to forge links with businesses from those nations.

“The economy is global today and we have to be sure we reach to those other global markets to explore opportunities,” Eisenberger said. “Our economic development folks here have developed a good strategy to capitalize not only on the sports opportunity of Pan Am but also the business opportunity.”

The strategy will continue Wednesday with a bilateral trade forum featuring presentations by the consuls-general of Chile, Peru, Mexico, Costa Rica, the United States and Colombia.

Article courtesy of Steve Arnold, The Hamilton Spectator

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