Today we started this morning visiting another Fellow, Pablo Fernandez. Pablo was running a Marketing Conference at the Radisson. It was a several day conference introducing new marketing ideas, speakers and a trade show. They were introducing some new brands here that were familiar to us - Halls and Activia. It was wonderful to meet Pablo though his time was limited.
In the afternoon, we visited the US Embassy and Ambassador, David Nelson. http://uruguay.usembassy.gov/usaweb/paginas/index.shtml
It was a wonderful opportunity to hear his thoughts and hopes of US relations with Uruguay. Though we know the biggest goal in the mind of most Uruguayans is winning the World Cup, David hopes to see
• US and third party partnerships with Uruguay in taking advantage of the higher level of education/skilled labor and investment in Uruguay. Uruguay has the program of one lap top per student.
• There is an agricultural importance and opportunity with high quality especially in the areas of food safety and tracking with meat, best practices, natural products, open land, natural resources and a good climate. Given all the resources and location of Uruguay, it has the potential to assist in reaching the Millennium Development Goals (you should read these goals.….http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/) to meet the need of food production. It is a country of approximately 3 million with the capacity to feed 50 million!!!
• Recognition of Uruguay as a country offering a stable government, economic and business climate. Uruguay is a democratic society and elects new officials every 5 years. During the last 25 years, the main party has changed 3 times.
The current government regime was once a militia party. However, they have proved to be very open in working with other political parties and nations. This is critical for the importance of Uruguay's long term development. The country needs some infrastructure investments and these will need to happen over many years. Therefore, any infrastructure commitments must be recognized by all parties as they will change during the implementation. (Those of us in Boston now how long the Big Dig has taken)
The overall impression of the US has greatly improved in Uruguay. Two major activities contributed to this, first with the investment by Bush during their economic crisis of 2002 and now with the most recent visit of Hillary Clinton at the new President's inauguration. This visit sent a message that the US is seeking strong relations.
Chuck and I both enjoyed our time with David and his staff including the Embassy representative of the USDA. He was very interested in talking with us about a relationship that beef producers in Uruguay are trying to form with Massachusetts (small world).
In the afternoon, Daniel and I visited Zonamerica Business and Technology Park (http://www.zonamerica.com/ ). The development of this planned development started 20 years ago. An undeveloped piece of land, about 15km from Montevideo by the airport, was purchased by a family and the idea of planned development emerged. The long term plan for this project is a mix of Business (financial, scientific, technology, logistics), residential homes, a university and services (medical, shopping). The project has approximately 8000 employees working in it from companies such as Sabre, Merrill Lynch, RBS, PWC, ….The Park is the most interconnected/interconnectivity location in all of South America with fiber optic and tower services. There are restaurants, training facilities, transportation, and hotel and conference center, even a winery that had been on the property prior. There have been some delays with zoning and permitting approvals but they feel they will have approvals within the next year. The largest challenge lies in attracting businesses to their “FREE Trade” Zone and changing the mind set of the people that it is ok to live outside the city (again…only 15km).
We also met with one of the companies in the Park, Costa Oriental. They are a well established logistics and distribution company. www.costaoriental.com It is a very impressive organization that has been around for 25+ years and distributes many brands that we are familiar with all over the world.