Interview with the CEO from Panama Pacifico
Selected quotes will be used in the LatAm INVESTOR Panama Report
LatAm INVESTOR: How did the pandemic impact Panama Pacifico?
Henry Kardonski: The pandemic was an opportunity for everyone to think outside the box. The Pandemic made Panama Pacifico stronger, clients flocked to us, looking to live surrounded by nature and open spaces. We looked for opportunities in the limitations that the pandemic imposed on everyone; the lockdown restricted the execution of projects; but freed resources to focus on customer relations, efficiency, optimizing processes, innovating, and training our team; allowing us to get closer to our clients and nurture relationships in the community that we are creating. The values and design of Panama Pacifico are targeted at creating a human city or a city for humans, by enabling a sustainable environment to unleash the human potential of those who work and live here. The value we deliver has substantially increased interest in the development and has resulted in increased sales.
LAI: But the pandemic must have cut demand for houses in Panama Pacifico?
HK: Very much on the contrary – Panama Pacifico has become the top alternative for home buyers during the pandemic and beyond. The economic contraction created by the pandemic forced us to identify strong market niches, so that we were able to have a larger proportion of a smaller market. We have been growing and are a better company because of it. The story of Panama Pacifico is one of cautious optimism and resiliency during the pandemic, we delivered solutions and earned the trust of our residential and commercial clients. The result is increased loyalty from our clients which translates to a growing market share.
We are very clear about the market that we serve. Millennials, young couples, starter families, and empty nesters all have specific needs that we serve, and we are committed to delivering solutions to these groups. All of a sudden, millennials became traditional, and are now starting families; but with one important difference – they are empowered to design the life that they want, more authentic, more connected, more human. Our clients have a clear idea of the kind of life they want to build, they don’t follow the crowds. These are people who aren’t afraid of crossing a bridge from urbanized Panama City to a more connected life, surrounded by nature and a thriving community of forward thinkers. People who live here talk about the positive ways their kids are developing, how they are changing as human beings and that is our biggest asset. Panama Pacifico is 20 minutes from the city centre, and at most 40 minutes during rush hour, and with the schedule flexibility allowed by remote work, our residents can enjoy a more balanced and fuller life.
We have delivered around 2,000 homes to clients, which represents between 7,000 to 8,000 residents and our community will grow by 10 to 15% every year. That’s not just people buying houses, it’s an empowered community of people who decided that they wanted to live differently. I’m pleased to say that our masterplan is proving its worth because it creates that quality of life. But it’s also something we work at every day, by interacting with entrepreneurs, talents in sports, the arts, gastronomy, homeowners’ association, creating a dialogue that improves our commitment and life of our community. Residents here are proud of their community and they live with such passion. The community joins in preparation of celebrating special occasions such as Easter, Earth Day, Halloween, Christmas they turned their homes into ‘haunted houses, or Christmas villas and share their creativity. The communities BBQ fest is attended every year by more than 1,000 visitors. We get visitors coming from outside to take part in these events. The residential community here is very passionate, and it is that passion that contributes to improving the quality of life here.
During the lockdowns our community became active; many entrepreneurs emerged, forming WhatsApp groups to offer all kinds of goods and services. We are working with these entrepreneurs to create an online marketplace where they can have a formal presence and execute transactions.
The residential sales trend is up. The pandemic has made people reassess their life and the incredible open spaces, closeness to nature and excellent amenities, such as schools, that we can offer, is very attractive. Panama Pacifico is not a utopia, it is a living and breathing community, that offers conditions for a quality of life that is hard to find in other places. Recently International Living released its list of top places to live, Panama is listed as the number 1 place in the world to retire, and Panama Pacifico has all the elements to be the top destination in Panama
LAI: How has your industrial park performed during the pandemic?
HK: Panama is a logistics centre by nature and during the pandemic logistics became a much more important element in the value chain. Many of our clients’ businesses grew during the pandemic. Panama’s role in logistics became more relevant, companies are considering nearshoring, to produce and store closer to their markets and many understand the convenience of using Panama as a regional distribution hub. Clients are demanding larger warehouses and expanding their footprint. Both multinational and medium size companies are consolidating their logistics operations, and trust Panama Pacifico as the place to grow their business.
At this stage in our development, businesses don’t just choose Panama Pacifico for the tax advantages they get from operating here. Of course, our unique fiscal regime helps, but now it’s more about benefiting from the industrial and logistics ecosystem. We are the only world class business park in the country, so therefore the only top business park in the world that enjoys Panama’s amazing location. Panama Pacifico’ s logistic park, was designed according to world class standards, we continue to operate it that way. We are continually innovating with our clients’ needs in mind, and we improve continually every aspect of construction and operations that will help our clients operate more efficiently.
LAI: This government is keen for companies to add value in Panama; will it happen?
HK: The Emma Law is a positive step in that direction, the Emma Law is based on the success of Panama Pacifico’s value added activities, we look forward to our country attracting more companies that are looking to do value added operations. The law is also positive for Panama Pacifico, providing a skilled workforce, efficiency, and competitive costs.
Companies looking to add value have needs beyond the incentives. The right conversation with companies looking to establish value added operations is about, talent search, world class infrastructure, sustainability, and efficiency, we know these are the issues that matter. At Panama Pacifico we have been creating a system to identify the availability of skilled workforce. The Panamanian workforce is talented and highly trainable, universities and vocational schools are graduating professionals in the required fields. We make sure to have the data available when companies are in their site selection process. Companies with strong cultures of training their workforce accomplish amazing results, when they compare the efficiency of Panamanian workforce to operation in other locations. We have witnessed first-hand the amazing job multinational companies do in developing local talent. In addition, Panama Pacifico’ s one stop shop, support companies in all ranges of permitting and government interaction, from work permits, to immigration, construction permits, etc.
LAI: How serious is the delay to the 4th bridge over the Canal?
HK: Even with the delay of the bridge we continue creating the best place to live in Panama, we keep innovating, creating incredible spaces to live, work and to enjoy. The delay has energized us to create amazing amenities, retails spaces, parks and activities inside the development that truly set it apart from any other community in Panama. Let’s face it, public infrastructure projects get delayed all around the world, so it’s part of life. However, we are confident that the Panamanian government realises the strategic importance of the bridge and its impact on logistics, o communities in the west of Panama, and in general for the growth of our economy.
We are happy Line 3 of the Metro has started construction and the first stop is at the entrance of Panama Pacifico. Meanwhile, our residents have access to 5 excellent schools, and top afterschool programs, diverse retail, restaurants, supermarkets, clinics, gyms, and sports activities. In addition, residents have access to coworking spaces. There is huge interest in Panama Pacifico, and as the community consolidates the value of moving here outweighs, what we consider to be a perception, that crossing the bridge is a limitation, we consider crossing the bridge the greatest opportunity to discover true quality of life.
We can cope with the delay, but it’s important to highlight that this bridge serves the 500,000 souls that live across the existing bridge. The new bridge would improve the lives of this population. As Panamanians we are all working to help our country grow, to create more opportunities, jobs, and attract investment, everyone, public and private understand that the bridge is key infrastructure to propel the growth of our country.
Ultimately, we share the same strategic vision as the Panamanian state. We want Panama to leverage its logistics advantage to create better lives for its people.
LAI: What will Panama Pacifico look like in 2030?
HK: By 2030 Panama Pacifico will be the innovation hub for the region. Panama can attract research and development initiatives from the region. By then the metro project will serve the Panama Pacifico station, that will access, a futuristic transit-orientated development at the gate of our project, involving the creation of universities, hospitals, large scale employment, entertainment, retail, and affordable housing. We envision becoming a research and development hub for the region, bringing together academia, businesses, and entrepreneurs. Moreover, Panama Pacifico will now be perfectly situated between the million-person city of Panama to the east and the 500,000 people who living in the commuter suburbs to our west. A population that will have access to world class entertainment, jobs, education and healthcare, connected by the metro and for sure the new bridge over the Panama Canal.
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