Friday, August 18, 2017

Medellín Metro News 85

Published in Medellín Metro News Written by July 07 2017 0

Medellin-based multinational utilities giant EPM announced July 7 that its 2.4-gigawatt “Hidroituango” hydroelectric plant project in Antioquia is now 70% complete – with an initial 300-megawatts (MW) of electric output scheduled to start at end-2018.

 The US$5.5 billion project – Colombia’s biggest-ever hydroelectric plant and its largest-single infrastructure project – is jointly owned by EPM and the departmental government of Antioquia.

Beyond the initial 300-MW generator, another seven turbine generators will be installed in stages between 2019 and 2021, when the plant reaches full capacity.

A 225-meters-high dam on the Rio Cauca is already 62% complete, while the underground area that houses the mechanical and transformer sections is now fully excavated, according to EPM.

“With EPM engineers and operatives, satisfactory progress has been made in the assembly of the hydromechanical and electromechanical equipment of what will be the new generation plant,” EPM general manager Jorge Londoño de la Cuesta said. “The construction of the main works is progressing in compliance with the schedule and with the commitment to deliver the first 300-MW to the country by the end of 2018.”

The Ituango hydroelectric project currently employs 11,247 – most from Antioquia, and only 24 foreigners, according to EPM.

Published in Medellín Metro News Written by June 26 2017 0

Antioquia’s disaster-recovery agency -- Departamento Administrativo para la Prevención, Atención y Recuperación de Desastres (DAPARD) – announced June 29 that the bodies of the last two persons missing from a boating disaster at Guatape lake have now been recovered by divers.

A total of nine passengers died in the June 25 sinking of the "El Almirante" tour boat. The bodies of Aura Estella Barragán Argumedo and Erika Quinchía were recovered by divers on June 28, according to DAPARD, while the bodies of seven others previously recovered were Martha Nora Gómez, María Hilda Idárraga, Edilma Barragán, Valentina Jaramillo, Lupe del Socorro Cantor Rodríguez, John Jairo Palacio Restrepo and Daniel Mora Ortiz, according to DAPARD.

"El Almirante" went down in Guatape lake with more than 150 passengers aboard, around 2:30 p.m. June 25. Most were rescued by nearby boats that witnessed the sinking. None of the passengers were wearing life-jackets.

A dramatic film of the sinking is available at this web site: http://www.semana.com/nacion/articulo/barco-que-se-hundio-en-guatape-ya-se-habia-accidentado/530006 .

“El Almirante” had suffered two other recent sinkings, but had avoided losses of life in those earlier incidents, according to numerous local press reports.

According to one report from Medellin-based daily newspaper El Colombiano, 13 other tour boats with three or four stacked decks -- similar to “El Almirante” -- are operated by Asobarcos at Guatape. Colombian law requires such tour boats to carry life-jackets and give them to passengers, the report pointed out. All the Asobarcos boats have now been suspended from operations pending further investigations by authorities.

Guatape -- just two-hours' drive from Medellin -- is a popular weekend destination for boat trips, for browsing the food-and-trinkets kiosks along the Malecon (waterfront), and for strolling through the picturesque town with its characteristic "zocalo" sculptures that adorn most of the houses. 

Published in Medellín Metro News Written by June 15 2017 0

In a June 7 forum organized by Agencia de Cooperación e Inversión de Medellín y el Área Metropolitana (ACI Medellin), ACI director Sergio Escobar revealed that Medellin and its metro area so far have attracted US$1.63 billion in private foreign direct investment (FDI) over the 15-years of ACI’s existence.

 At the forum, Ambassadors to Colombia from France, Italy, Israel, Brazil and Peru as well as trade-and-commerce representatives from the U.S., UK, Japan, Spain and Canada along with private investors from 24 nations heard presentations from Medellin Mayor Federico Gutierrez and other leading trade-and-investment experts.

Last year alone, Medellin attracted US$211.6 million in FDI along with another US$5.8 million in cooperative grants or loans aimed at promoting economic development, education, health and environmental protection, according to ACI’s Escobar.

The U.S. is the number-one investor in Colombia, followed by the UK and Spain, Procolombia president Felipe Jaramillo added in a separate presentation here.

While a pending “peace” deal with the narco-terrorist FARC organization seems to be making progress, Colombia also would benefit from joining the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Jaramillo said. So far, 21 of the 23 committees overseeing Colombia’s application for OECD membership have given their nods, with the remaining two likely to give the final stamps-of-approval in the next few months, he added.

On a related front, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) released a report June 7 showing that Colombia was the only major country in Latin America that achieved an actual increase in FDI in 2016 -- hitting US$14 billion -- whereas FDI in Brazil, Mexico, Chile and Peru and Venezuela actually saw FDI shrink.

“We were considered a ‘closed’ city 15 years ago,” ACI’s Escobar said in his presentation here. However, thanks to Medellin’s remarkable turnaround in reducing crime, a growing reputation for social innovation, plus aggressive recruiting efforts by ACI, Medellin’s political and business leaders, and the Procolombia trade-and-investment agency, the picture has dramatically improved.

“We were the most violent city in the world in 1991,” Mayor Gutierrez pointed out in his presentation. “We had to reinvent ourselves.”

Medellin’s murder rate per 100,000 residents hit an astronomical 370 in 1991. But since then, aggressive measures in social investment, crime control, infrastructure development and economic investment have helped to bring the murder rate down to 18.9 per 100,000, well-below scores of other major global cities, he showed.

One of Medellin’s most popular landmarks for “narco-tourism” – the long-abandoned Edificio Monaco developed by the late drug lord Pablo Escobar – will be demolished and replaced by a park honoring victims of narco-terrorism, Gutierrez announced here to loud applause.

Meanwhile, Medellin’s public-school educational system continues to improve, with 88% of those schools improving their test-of-knowledge (“saber”) scores last year, he said.

In addition, local business leaders are communicating to school and government leaders here on their specific needs for skill development for tomorrow’s jobs, he said. As a result, Medellin will be offering more than 10,000 special scholarship grants for these growing, high-demand careers, he said.

Of the more-than 92,000 commercial companies in Medellin today, 19% of these companies are industrial, Gutierrez said. In total, of the more-than 1 million jobs in Medellin, about 190,000 are industrial jobs, he added.

Medellin and Antioquia’s well-known reputation for business “push” and work-ethic were among key factors for Renault’s decision to build its automotive assembly plant in the neighboring suburb of Envigado some 50 years ago, Renault-Colombia government relations director Pablo Urrego added here.

With more than 50 years experience building cars here, Renault since has risen to become Colombia’s biggest vehicle exporter, accounting for 40% of total output, Urrego said.

The “paisas” (the people of Antioquia) “have an enormous capacity for innovation,” he said. “You can see it here, not just in business but in social projects. There is civic pride here in institutions and in companies. We have strong institutional support -- and very low turnover [in employees].

“But infrastructures [especially highway, rail and ports] haven’t grown as fast as the business” -- with the result that freight transport in Colombia and Antioquia is too expensive. In addition, “the absence of a national industrial policy complicates our investment outlook,” Urrego cautioned.

Similarly, France-based cosmetics and food-additives manufacturer Mane decided to invest in Medellin 17 years ago mainly because of the area’s favorable “human factors” -- even “despite all the problems,” Mane general manager Alejandro Henao said here.

“It’s relatively easy to do business in Medellin -- and the local Chamber of Commerce helps a lot” in navigating the process of licenses and approvals, he added.

Because of continuing favorable economic growth, middle-class growth and rising demand here, “we have increased our production capacity here.”

However, Medellin and Antioquia need to ensure the completion of major highway and port development projects including the “Mar 1” and "Mar 2” highways to new ports on the Atlantic. More efforts also are needed to slash the growth of air pollution in the Uraba Valley where Medellin sits, he added. Declining air quality could hobble or even stop investment growth here, Henao warned.

On a related front, France-based Poma – designer, maker and installer of zero-emissions aerial tram (cable car) systems – similarly decided to bet heavily on Medellin despite its historic problems.

As a result, the world’s first public-transit aerial-tram system debuted here in 2002 -- and continues to expand in more neighborhoods, as noted by Poma Colombia director Frederic Demoulin. “We’re proud pioneers -- and history shows this has been a winning bet,” with Poma now expanding its pioneering public aerial-tram systems to Ecuador, Brazil and France, he added.

Published in Medellín Metro News Written by May 26 2017 0

The just-released report from the Colombian national “Como Vamos” (“How are we Doing?”) network of citizen surveys finds that Medellin is perceived as best among major cities for over-all quality of life, while Bogota is worst.

Published in Medellín Metro News Written by April 25 2017 0

The departmental government of Antioquia announced April 24 that the US$5.5 billion, 2.4-gigawatt “Hidroituango” hydroelectric project finally has won the first two of four power-transmission construction permits from Colombia’s environmental licensing agency (ANLA).

Published in Medellín Metro News Written by April 04 2017 0

Medellin’s world-famous “Metro” public transit system including electric rail, aerial tram, road tram, bus rapid transit (BRT) and free bicycles at Metro stations is breaking all-time records for public use – and now aims to help cut a worrisome growth in vehicle air pollution.

Published in Medellín Metro News Written by March 10 2017 0

Medellin and the surrounding Antioquia department are likely to see 3.3% growth this year in gross domestic product (“PIB” in Spanish initials), according to the latest forecast by the Camara de Comercio de Medellin para Antioquia (CCM), the local chamber of commerce.

Published in Medellín Metro News Written by March 09 2017 0

Colombia’s Agencia Nacional de Infraestructura (ANI) announced March 9 the start of construction on the “Vias del Nus” highway project linking Medellin suburbs northward to major Atlantic ports including Cartagena, Barranquilla and Santa Marta.

The COP$1.1 trillion (US$366 million) project -- also known as “Vinus”-- is financed privately, with Colombia’s Financiera de Desarrollo Nacional (FDN) having arranged loans from investor-partners including International Finance Corporation, Corporación Andina de Fomento (CAF), Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporatión and Colombia’s Ministerio de Hacienda y Crédito Público (see Medellin Herald on January 25, 2017).

Scheduled for completion by 2021, the “Vinus” highway system would run 157.4 kilometers and would enable freight and passenger vehicles to travel at speeds averaging 80 kilometers per hour -- slashing travel time between Medellín and Cartagena to 14 hours, down from 24 hours today, according to ANI.

When complete, “Vinus” will connect to Puerto Valdivia, linking with the “Rio Magdalena 2” and “Conexión Norte” highways, ANI noted.

“This project will push forward development and progress in Antioquia and in the entire country, given that it will be part of the highway connection to the Middle Magdalena region, the northeast of Antioquia and the new highway corridor to [the Atlantic ports of] Coveñas and Cartagena,” added ANI president Luis Fernando Andrade.

The first phase of construction involves rehabilitation of 35.6 kilometers of highway between Cisneros and Alto Dolores. Then -- over the next four years -- 24.3 kilometers of four-lane, divided highway between Pradera and Porcesito will be built. The "Vinus" project also includes new, twin tunnels (each of 4.1 kilometers) at the La Quiebra pass, plus a new link to Cisneros, plus 2.7 kilometers of a third lane of highway between San José del Nus and Alto Dolores.

By 2021, the “Vinus” project will form part of 97.5 kilometers of four-lane divided highway including the section between the Medellin suburb of Bello and Hatillo, ANI noted.

Published in Medellín Metro News Written by February 27 2017 0

The Metropolitan Police for Medellin and the Valley of Aburrá announced February 27 that alias “Marulo” – one of four accused killers of two foreign visitors to Medellin last year -- has just voluntarily surrendered, following police investigations and citizen information.

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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.

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