Monday, July 23, 2018

Become part of our community

captcha 

New York-based global high-tech consultancy Accenture on July 18 officially announced the opening of its “Advanced Technology Center” at Medellin’s “Ruta N” landing space, aiming to serve information technology (IT) customers throughout the Americas.

“The center’s professionals will work with clients in a wide range of industries, including finance, telecommunications, consumer goods, natural resources, mining and energy, using the latest technologies available in the market and smart tools to help customers seize opportunities, enter new markets, increase the speed of commercialization and outperform competitors,” according to the company.

The new Advanced Technology Center “includes software developers, consultants, technical specialists, data scientists and experts in artificial intelligence, automation of robotic processes and other innovative technologies,” Accenture added.

“Accenture plans to hire 500 people for the Center and for its other operations in Colombia this year, seeking not only experienced professionals, but also new talent recruited from local universities with which it has close ties.

“The company plans to build local teams with advanced skills in core and new technologies, and with expertise in the most advanced delivery models, such as Agile, continuous integration, DevOps and highly automated processes.”

“There is a great amount of technological talent in Medellin, and we are pleased to offer IT professionals the opportunity to develop their careers at Accenture. Those who join our team will have access to the latest technology and will receive training for personal and professional development opportunities, as well as expand their commercial, industrial, technical and leadership skills,” added  Marco Ribas, president of Accenture in Colombia.

Ruta N director Alejandro Franco added that Accenture already employs some 225 technical workers at Ruta N and that thanks to the new Advanced Technology Center, Accenture aims to generate some 1,000 more jobs here over the next two years.


Tango fanaticism in Medellin is perhaps second only to Buenos Aires -- and only partly because the world’s most famous tango singer Carlos Gardel tragically died in a plane accident here on June 24, 1935.

Since then, numerous tango clubs have sprung-up around Medellin, eventually prompting the city to organize the popular, annual Medellin Tango Festivals each June.

These events and venues draw thousands of national and international spectators and dozens of internationally famous tango stars (see "Medellin’s Annual Tango Festival Shines This Month," Medellin Herald, June 15, 2016, and "Tango in Medellin Continues to Thrive; Salon Malaga, Patio del Tango Local Favorites,” Medellin Herald, August 31, 2016).

This fame continues to grow in unexpected ways, as evidenced by a July 18, 2018 report in Portafolio, one of Colombia’s two major national business newspapers.

That report recounts the founding and growth of Medellin-based shoe-maker D’Raso, which specializes in shoes for tango, flamenco, jazz, salsa and ballet -- for customers in cities as far-flung as Paris, London, Madrid, Rome, New York, Montreal and Melbourne, where the company has specialist sales representatives.

According to the company, its hand-made shoes employ “exclusive designs evolved from quality and functionality,” tailor-made for each dancer.

“In our D’Raso shoes it is essential that all seams are resistant and that all its parts are reinforced, to ensure that the shoes between jumps and movements absorb shock and energy without breaking, of course, without losing the comfort and flexibility that our brand offers," according to the company.

“Our shoes make a difference by being specially designed to dance. Softness, flexibility, comfort and light weight allow you to more easily perform your pivot movements, turns, rotations, insteps, jumps among other movements.”

The family-owned company first ventured into footwear in 1962. But a succeeding generation --- led by current owner Robiro Ocampo (himself a tango dancer) – spotted an international market for specialist dancing shoes.

“The main characteristic of a D'Raso shoe is that it should be comfortable and should be adjusted to the foot as if it were a glove,” according to the company.

“When a shoe is not adjusted to the foot, this forces the dancer to make an extra effort to maintain posture while making turns or fast movements. We know how important it is for you to be comfortable when it comes to dancing, so our team is committed to do our best to meet your expectations, providing a product of excellent quality,” according to the company.


Medellin-based motorcycle assembler/wholesaler Auteco announced July 10 that it just opened a massive, 9,125-square-meters parts-distribution center in the neighboring suburb of Rionegro, Antioquia.

Auteco – born in Medellin in 1941 – currently builds and markets major motorcycle brands for all of Colombia, including Kawasaki, Bajaj, Kymco, KTM, and Stärker, the latter an electric-powered, zero-emissions motorcycle. The distribution center not only will handle parts distribution for those brands, but also for other major motorcycle brands including Victory.

The company also is a major supporter of  Medellin’s pioneering bilingual-education program for underprivileged children (see “Medellin’s Fundacion Marina Orth Seeks Volunteer English Teachers, Mentors, Donors,” February 20, 2017, Medellin Herald).

The new distribution center employs 218 workers and will handle 65,000 different parts and accessories, according to the company. The center also includes a novel “extended warehouse management” computerized logistics system, as well as an automated, vertical conveyor system, for which Auteco was a pioneer in all Colombia.

The center also includes 16 loading docks for trucks serving 1,400 retail destinations nation-wide. On average, the center each month will receive 35 shipping containers of various motorcycle parts, then handle 14,000 monthly requests for some 22,000 outgoing parts from the tens of thousands of individualized slots at the warehouse, according to the company.

 


Colombia’s science-investigation unit Colciencias announced July 16 that it’s teaming-up with government officials for a first-ever “BioExpedition” this month near Anorí, northeast Antioquia – an area forbidden to nature-lovers because of decades of FARC guerrilla violence.

According to the announcement (see: http://www.colciencias.gov.co/sites/default/files/upload/noticias/prototipo_ficha_municipal_anori_-_julio_12.pdf), the BioExpedition will involve 22 researchers from the Eafit, Antioquia and CES universities; three United Nations officials, five community leaders, five professionals from Colciencias and 10 former FARC guerrillas who will help guide the group.

The expedition opens an opportunity to “discover the natural richness of a territory that was unexplored by institutions and scientists as a consequence of the armed conflict,” according to Colciencias.

Anorí hosts 52,000 hectares of continuous tropical humid forest, with animal, plant and insect species that may even be unknown to science, according to the organization. The explorers aim to find and categorize amphibians, birds, mammals, reptiles, orchids and butterflies, as well as produce a television documentary.

“The starting point of the BioExpedition will be the village of La Tirana, and a camp will be established to cover an area of investigation including the Anorí River, the Hiracales stream and the Nechí River,” according to Colciencias.

The Colombian Army will establish a unified command post to monitor daily the safety and health of the explorers, and “checkpoints will be placed in strategic locations,” according to the organization.

“This initiative [also] constitutes a key process for the design of strategies of [former guerrilla fighters] reincorporation and rural development around biodiversity,” according to Colciencias.


Medellin-based textile and fashion-industry trade group Inexmoda announced this month that it’s expecting about 13,000 buyers to interact with some 600 brand marketers at the annual “Colombiamoda” fashion show at Plaza Mayor July 24-26.

Among the sellers, 87% will be Colombian – including 44% from Antioquia, 17% from Cundinamarca and 5% from Valle del Cauca. International buyers include representatives from 56 countries, according to Inexmoda.

The 2018 edition of the annual show will occupy more than 5,000 square meters at the convention center, featuring the clothing designs of Arkitect by Custo at the opening, Isabel Henao at the closing, as well as renowned Andrés Pajón, Camilo Álvarez, Andrea Landa and SOY collections, “among the great figures on the catwalks of ‘La Semana de la Moda’ in Colombia,” according to the show organizer.

“The opening will be led by Grupo Éxito with its brand ‘Arkitect’ together with the designer Custo Barcelona, in a collaboration that continues to democratize fashion, including clothing production 100% made-in-Colombia,” according to Inexmoda.

Other veteran designers on the fashion agenda this year include Diego Guarnizo and María Luisa Ortiz (presented by The Foundation for Women AVON); Andrés Pajón, Camilo Alvarez and Andrea Landa (presented by Chevrolet); and ALADO, celebrating 10 years of fashion-industry trajectory, according to the group.

Emerging designers featured at “El Cubo” will include Geraldine Lustgarten, Kinira Swimwear, La Mar, Vana, Beat-a-bee and Afrikans, while other young designers such as Alexandra Bueno, Rocío Borré (with her trademark “Bahamamama” beach wear), María Alejandra Cajamarca (with her “Bahía María” swimwear) separately will be featured at a “Nonstop Moda” event.

International clothing designer GEF returns to Colombiamoda this year, along with other major brands including Offcorss, Maaji, Ann Chery, Chamela, Trucco's Jeans, Carmen Steffens and People, according to Inexmoda.

As for the special-interest lectures, emerging “circular economy” and “digital influences” themes will be examined at the Inexmoda “Knowledge Pavilion” conferences, organized by Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana.

Among Colombiamoda 2018 show novelties, “the first novelty is that Inexmoda launches a new platform for the business agenda, which will allow buyers to make their appointment schedule with the exhibitors of their interest days before the fair,” according to the group. A second novelty -- in the special graphic-design section this year -- will enable buyers to interact with artists and illustrators and then see finished outputs for real-world design evaluations.

“The third novelty will take place in Vogue ‘Talents Corner,’ the space that allows purchases by the final consumer, including categories of clothing and jewelry, along with beachwear and intimate categories,” according to Inexmoda.

“And the fourth novelty is the ‘Route of Transformation,’ a guided tour by several exhibiting companies that have transformed their businesses thanks to the knowledge imparted by Inexmoda as well as the impulse from governmental allies,” according to Inexmoda.


The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) “Oro Legal” (legal gold) project management announced July 17 that toxic mercury dumping and processing has declined “significantly” among artisanal gold-mining operations in Bajo Cauca as well as Northeast Antioquia.

The agency noted that Colombia officially banned all further use of mercury in gold-mining activities as of July 15, 2018, following a five-year “transitional period” that started in 2013.

Socially responsible national and international gold miners in Colombia abolished mercury usage years ago. But some informal and criminal gold-mining operators here continue to dump toxic mercury, poisoning the environment, gold-processing workers and nearby populations.

Following the Colombian government’s mercury-phase-out transitional period, “some concerns arise regarding [the mercury-ban law’s] effectiveness,” according to USAID.

However, recent studies indicate a “significant reduction in the use of [mercury] in the Bajo Cauca Antioqueño and Northeast Antioquia mines, and there is also evidence of a decrease in [mercury vapor] emissions in the air in populated areas, as demonstrated by the comparative measurements made by USAID during the years 2016 and 2017,” according to the agency.

USAID’s “Legal Gold” study examined use of mercury in local gold mines, analyzed commercial movement of mercury, and measured mercury vapors in certain towns via a novel sampling protocol.

Samples were taken in 63 small mining production units located in Bajo Cauca and Northeast Antioquia, according to the agency.

“The mining units that received or receive accompaniment from the USAID Legal Gold program’s formalization process in the last two years have registered an approximate elimination of 7.8 tons of mercury in the department of Antioquia,” the agency reported.

“This is due to the technical assistance provided in the field and to the [artisanal miner] formalization contracts or subcontracts established between owners and small-scale miners, which obliges the latter to process their material in zero-mercury [gold-processing] plants.

“However, due to cultural and economic situations of the small miner, mercury use still persists. Comparative studies indicate that, on average, in the three types of [artisanal] mining [open-pit, alluvial and mini-dredge] in 2016, for each gram of gold produced, 14 grams of mercury were used, while in 2017 the figure dropped to 6.15 grams to process one gram of gold.,” according to USAID.

“In December 2016, in order to establish a control on the importation and commercialization of mercury and all products that contain it, the national government issued Decree 2133 of 2016, which establishes the process and allowed quota for the importation of mercury.

“Likewise, the government determined that the import quota of mercury to the country for the period from September 16, 2017 to September 15, 2020 was stipulated at two tons per year, and this should be used for activities other than mining.

“This reduction in the import quota of mercury hindered the acquisition of this metal in the different municipalities and multiplied its real price. Before the controls, a kilogram of mercury was quoted at COP$220,000 [US$76], but today this figure amounts to COP$750,000 [US$260 ],” the agency added.

As for mercury-vapor air-pollution studies, the agency took air samples in gold-trading and processing centers in six municipalities of Antioquia and three of Chocó: Segovia, Remedios, El Bagre, Caucasia, Zaragoza, Santafé de Antioquia, Quibdó, Condoto and Istmina.

Over time, the investigators discovered the emergence of new mercury-vapor hot-spots "in the perimeter areas of the town, away from shopping areas and gold purchases,” according to the agency.

“The conclusion of this monitoring is that [mercury vapor pollution] declined in urban areas, which indicates less impact on public health, but a greater dispersion was detected in peripheral areas, a situation that makes [mercury pollution] control difficult,” added Peter Doyle, USAID’s legal-gold program director.

While government controls on the importation and commercialization of mercury along with prohibition of the burning of gold-processing amalgams in residential, commercial institutional areas has helped cut such pollution, more remains to be done.

“The progress in reducing mercury has been impressive and little recognized, but it is going to reach a point where some miners do not have the culture, technology and funding sources for [mercury] elimination [and these miners] will need more support to achieve elimination,” Doyle concluded.


EPM general manager Jorge Londoño de la Cuesta revealed in a July 11 press conference that engineers are making more progress in recovering the US$5 billion, 2.4-gigawatt “Hidroituango” hydroelectric dam project in Antioquia in the wake of a temporary emergency caused by a geological fault and a diversion-tunnel failure last May.

Thanks to falling water levels in the Cauca river – the result of the typical Colombia summer-dry-season starting in July – waters behind the dam have dropped to 380 meters above sea level, down nearly 14 meters from a peak in June. This will help accelerate engineering work and recovery efforts.

“According to hydrological forecasts, it is estimated that the reservoir will stabilize between elevations 370 meters above sea level and 375 meters above sea level” during the summer season, according to EPM.

Meanwhile, some relatively minor landslides above the intake gates for the tunnels leading to the machine room (where the generator turbines eventually will be located) prompted EPM to begin building a metallic-roof structure that will protect workers, machinery and equipment at the site, Londoño explained.

In that area, workers soon will install closure gates for the tunnels -- hence enabling EPM to enter and repair whatever damage might be found in the machine room powerhouse, which has been used temporarily to evacuate Cauca river water because of the diversion-tunnel failure last May.

“Once we complete the civil works and install the gates of [machine-room entry tunnels] 1 and 2, in about a month, we will be able to to close the flow of water through the powerhouse,” according to EPM.

Meanwhile, last Friday (July 6), EPM radar monitors detected a rock fall in a road tunnel leading to the machine house, “which caused a slight decrease in the flow of water through the discharge tunnels,” although subsequent flows are now stable, according to the company.

“For the closure of the powerhouse, the company is working on a plan that includes closing a [Cauca River water] catchment gate and leaving a second gate open to allow [a required minimum] ecological flow to the Cauca River [downstream of the dam]. When the level of the reservoir [behind the dam] is very close to reaching the height of the engineered spillway at 401 meters above sea level, this second gate will be closed and the water flow through the machine house will be interrupted,” thus enabling EPM workers to enter and begin repairs -- hopefully before year-end 2018, Londoño added.

With both the diversion tunnel and the machine-house tunnels closed, that means that Cauca River waters will instead flow safely over the engineered spillway, avoiding water-flooding in tunnels.

Meanwhile, EPM continues works to raise the dam to 418 meters above sea level over the next few weeks, after which a specialist contractor -- Soletanche Bachy Cimas -- will begin injecting a special type of concrete (bentonite and cement) inside the dam, further reinforcing the works, he explained.

This reinforcement work is likely to be completed by year-end 2018 or the first few weeks of 2019, hence ensuring that the dam can withstand any floods that theoretically might happen once every 500 years, Londoño explained. Dam construction nevertheless will continue to 435 meters above sea level -- virtually eliminating any possible dam-overtopping by some theoretical, Biblical-style flood.

“For the definitive plugging of the right diversion tunnel and the auxiliary diversion system, EPM and the CCC Ituango construction consortium are advancing in technical and economic negotiations with [Houston-based] Halliburton, specialized in drilling for the oil industry," EPM added. "This company will finalize in the next weeks the engineering design to proceed with the contracting and execution phases,” according to EPM.

Final closure of that diversion tunnel is estimated to be completed around October, Londoño added.

As for EPM’s concurrent social work to help downstream populations in Puerto Valdivia -- temporarily moved to shelters far-above the river's edge during the emergency -- “of the 1,640 families that can receive financial support from EPM to temporarily rent a home and pay their monthly maintenance, 929 families already obtained this support and another 711 families are in the process of being processed. EPM has provided all the resources so that the evacuees have comprehensive attention in the current circumstances,” the company added.


Investment promotion agency Agencia de Cooperacion e Inversion de Medellin y el Area Metropolitana (ACI) announced July 10 that besides the under-construction, 220-room Hilton luxury hotel on Las Palmas and the recently completed, US$50 million Marriott hotel in El Poblado in Medellin, Antioquia soon will host another 34 new hotel projects in 2019.

Citing statistics from Colombian hotel trade association Cotelco, ACI explained that “Medellín went from having 176 hotels with 7,370 rooms in 2016, to 197 hotels and 8,628 rooms in 2018. By 2019, 34 new projects will be undertaken in the territory of Antioquia.”

“We are the department [Antioquia] with the most investment -- COP$674 billion [US$235 million] --in the construction of hotels in Colombia, directly generating more employment, as 56,640 workers in Medellín are employed by hotels,” added Johana Martínez, executive director of Cotelco’s Antioquia-Chocó chapter.

Among the new and under-construction hotels in Medellín: Decameron, Hilton, Travelers, Wyndham, Atton (US$30 million), Viaggio, La Quinta Inn, Marriott, Metro Hotel, City Express (US$42 million), Click Clack and Blue Doors, according to ACI.

Citing Colombian SITUR tourism-agency figures, ACI added that “the accelerated growth in hotels responds mainly to the demand for the sustained increase in the arrival of travelers to the city, with 735,570 visitors in 2017, of which 274,693 were foreigners, an increase of 4.8% over 2016.”

“Tourist growth and the great attraction for foreign investment offered by Medellín -- part of a city-region strategy -- are key elements for the September 24-25, 2018, realization of SAHIC [South American Hotel and Tourism Investment conference] here, one of the most important international events in the sector,” the agency added.

Besides business and convention tourism growth here, eco-tourism is also growing in Antioquia, according to Federico Guerra Hoyos, Secretary of Productivity and Competitiveness for the departmental government of Antioquia.

Antioquia “is one of the places with the greatest number of bird species in the world. All this natural beauty is very close to villages with hotel infrastructure, which, added to the host talent of the residents, make our territory an unforgettable place and a unique sensation,” Guerra added.


Medellin’s “Metro” public transit agency announced July 9 that Wall Street bond rater Fitch just upgraded Metro’s long-term debt rating to “AAA (col)” from “AA + (col)” while the short-term rating remains at a relatively strong “F1 + (col).”

“In both cases, these are the highest ratings that [Fitch] gives to Colombian companies,” according to Metro, which operates a mainly electric-powered railcar, aerial-tram and surface-tram system, as well as a natural-gas-fueled bus rapid transit (BRT) system in the Medellin metropolitan area.

The ratings indicate that “Medellín Metro has been characterized by solid management and administration,” supported by “income legitimacy, operational risk, financial profile and asymmetric added risk,” according to the agency.

“In the case of the long-term rating, Fitch Ratings raised the rating to 'AAA (col)' from 'AA + (col)' with a stable outlook, which is assigned to issuers or obligations with the lowest expectation of default risk in relation to all other issuers or obligations in the same country. The outlook indicates that it is unlikely that the rating will change in a period of between one and two years.

“In the case of the short-term rating, Fitch affirmed the 'F1 + (col)' rating it had given in its previous review, also with a stable outlook, which is assigned to the lowest default risk in relation to others in the same country. When a + sign is added, as in the case of the Medellín Metro, this indicates that the liquidity profile is particularly strong.

“The legitimacy of revenues refers to the capacity to increase them and the competitive position in the sector, a factor that was considered strong due to the existence of a strategic objective that establishes that by 2020, 10% of revenues must come from different sources to the rate.

“Operational risk is considered as a factor in the medium range because Metro adequately identifies its costs, which allows it to have a certain degree of flexibility for [containing] them.

“Regarding the financial profile, this is considered as a strong range since the EBITDA [earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization] generation is robust and its margins, although they show the start-up of greater services, remain relatively stable. Likewise, the liquidity position is good due to the existence of adequate levels of cash and liquid investments of free destination. Finally, Fitch highlights the conservative management of investment portfolios, which have a low risk profile,” Metro added.


A new report from the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL) finds that foreign direct investment (FDI) in Colombia grew by a relatively modest 0.5% year-on-year in 2017, whereas FDI in Latin America actually fell 3.6% region-wide.

According to the report (see: https://www.cepal.org/es/comunicados/inversion-extranjera-directa-america-latina-caribe-cae-tercer-ano-consecutivo-2017-llega), “FDI inflows into Colombia reached US$13.924 billion in 2017, up 0.5% on 2016 levels and close to those recorded between 2011 and 2014.

“Reinvested earnings increased significantly for the year, especially in the fourth quarter, reflecting the increase in the price of oil, as well as the overall improvement of the economy in the second half of the year.”

Transport and telecommunications sectors were the biggest FDI recipients in 2017, at US$3.136 billion, “matching investment flows to the oil sector (US$3.135 billion), traditionally the largest recipient of FDI in Colombia,” according to the report.

Following the crash in global oil prices starting in 2014, “between 2011 and 2014, the oil sector [in Colombia] recieved over US$5 billion annually, but these [FDI] inflows halved in 2015 and 2016,” the CEPAL report noted.

In contrast, Colombia's oil-and-gas FDI rise seen in 2017 and in the first months of 2018 “reflects the pick-up in investment resulting from the increase in [oil] prices,” according to the report.

Colombia’s mining sector also benefited from a global rebound in prices for basic materials, as 2017 mining FDI rose to US$953 million. “FDI in the manufacturing sector also increased, almost reaching its highest level in the past 10 years, at US$2.523 billion,” the report added.

Following a trend of recent years, Spain was the biggest single source of FDI to Colombia, at US$2.616 billion, with the United States a close second, at US$2.121 billion.

“Mexico was the third largest investor [to Colombia] in 2017 with FDI totaling US$1.717 billion, including an investment by Grupo Salinas, which injected an additional US$100 million into its fiber-optic infrastructure subsidiary, Azteca Comunicaciones Colombia,” according to the report.

“Investments from Spain and Mexico increased owing to the recapitalization of the [telecom] subsidiaries of Telefónica and Claro, after a Colombian court ordered the companies to pay the Colombian government US$500 million and US$1 billion [respectively] in compensation for contractual infringements in the framework of the concessions awarded to them in 1994,” the report added.

In contrast to the positive signs for Colombia, 2017 FDI actually declined 9.7% year-on-year in Brazil and 8.8% in Mexico, while Chile saw FDI plunge 48% and Peru dipped 1.4%.

Commenting on the CEPAL report, Maria Lorena Gutierrez, Colombia’s Minister of Trade, Industry and Tourism, stated: “Colombia is a stable country. We have instruments that attract investors such as investment agreements, free zones and double-taxation [avoidance] agreements.

“But the prospects are even better. The peace agreement [between the government and the FARC terrorist group] and the entry of Colombia into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development are aspects that make the country even more attractive,” she added.


Page 1 of 34

SILLETEROS PARADE 2016 by JOHN AND DONNA STORMZAND (click to enlarge)

MEDELLÍN PHOTOS by Gabriel Buitrago (click to enlarge)

Featured

Volunteering February 20 2017 0
As the late North American philosopher A.B. Johnson once quipped, “mighty oaks from little acorns…

About Medellin Herald

Medellin Herald is a locally produced, English-language news and advisory service uniquely focused upon a more-mature audience of visitors, investors, conference and trade-show attendees, property buyers, expats, retirees, volunteers and nature lovers.

U.S. native Roberto Peckham, who founded Medellin Herald in 2015, has been residing in metro Medellin since 2005 and has traveled regularly and extensively throughout Colombia since 1981.

Medellin Herald welcomes your editorial contributions, comments and story-idea suggestions. Send us a message using the "contact" section.

Contact US

logo def
Medellin Herald: Find news, information, reviews and opinion on business, events, conferences, congresses, education, real estate, investing, retiring and more.
  • COL (4) 386 06 27
  • USA (1) 305 517 76 35
  •  www.medellinherald.com 
  •  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
  • Medellin, Antioquia, Colombia

Medellín Photo Galery

Medellin, contrasting colors and styles by Gabriel Buitrago
MPGMPGMPGMPGMPGMPGMPGMPGMPGMPGMPGnav