Panama Pacifico spans one million square meters dedicated to commercial space, over 650 hectares to parks and recreation and over 20,000 residences. A partnership between the Panamanian government and private real estate developer London and Regional Panama, this trading zone is rapidly outshining its peers, becoming a city in itself of the highest standards.
Colombian billionaire Jaime Galinski is the man behind the acquisition of this former American Air Force Base. Since its creation in 2004, the trading zone has become home to brands such as Dell, 3M, Pepsico, DAMCO, FEDEX, ILC and more, not to mention hospitals, international schools, sports parks, call centers, bank offices and leisure clubs for employees and their families. “Forbes described this as the most audacious real estate project in the world, and they hit the nail on the head,” says Daniel Abrego as we enter his warehouses situated at the PanAmerica Corporate Center of Panama Pacifico.
Abrego, a proud native of Panama and founder and CEO of Intercontinental Logistics Corp. can’t hide his fascination with all things logistics. “I chose to set up here because you can really hit the ground running business-wise. Besides the proximity to the airport and the ports, the fiscal and labor benefits, the onsite customs at ‘la ventanilla unica’…besides all that there’s an indescribable feeling that gets you in the gut. The potential of this place is compounded by the way it functions – it’s more connected and reactive than any other free trade zone. It’s truly a thriving non-stop logistics cluster.”
The cluster he is referring to is one of the reasons Panama Pacifico promises growth and value. Here, companies are grouped as communities, sharing their know-how and filling any gaps. Between the 3PLs, distribution companies, freight carriers etc., all the customers’ needs are covered across the supply chain. And with 72% of vessels transiting the Canal doing a port call to drop off or load cargo, value-add services are in high demand.
With such a collation of data and volume of goods and higher frequencies of operations, efficiency is optimized leading to lower costs, all the while stimulating the country’s trade growth. Think of the jobs created from staffing in warehouses to IT service and customer support, maintenance and repair, and management. Due to the need of proximity to end markets and late stage customization of products for re-exports in the region, these jobs are not going anywhere offshore.
Abrego’s unique take on hiring and talent utilization seems fitting to the environment. “I wouldn’t say hierarchy is out. I see it as who works with whom, rather than who works for whom. We also keep a flexible mindset in our roles and processes because our customers expect Built-to-Suit operations. And talent also needs mobility. If an employee is at the right place at the right time, they feel empowered and this leads to a high-performing organization.”
Also on the ILC site, are the white rooms where packaging and manufacturing support of pharmaceuticals and medical devices happens.
“We have invested in the pharma sector in a big way in the last four years. Our Intra-Hospital Logistics services is up and running across more than a hundred hospitals in Brazil and Mexico. We handle everything from quality control to delivery of medicines to the patient’s hand. We’ve got trucks leaving every day for waste collection from health facilities, we hold training for healthcare personnel so they can optimize their clinical procedures…pretty much the A to Z of what a clinical facility requires. We even find and vet suppliers of medicines, handle storage and distribution. It’s a booming and interesting area, and at this point, I wouldn’t rule out anything when it comes to our involvement in this sector.”
“We have every opportunity to be the next Singapore in terms of being business friendly. Except it’s not as expensive as Singapore to work or live here,” says Abrego. “Multinationals are drawn here by Law 41 which offers tax discounts and migratory benefits. But look a little closer, and businesses stay here because we adhere to a long-term vision for the country. Our government is business friendly, we are strategically located, and most vitally, our education and skilled labour force is constantly improving. The nearby City of Knowledge, or Ciudad del Saber, is just an example of how we are evolving into a university hub too.”