Nearshore Americas

Economic Development Essentials for Latin America Investment Agencies

It’s never easy to figure out exactly what decision makers in contact center site selections might be thinking or what issues they deem most critical. This is especially true in today’s ever-changing economic environment. However, one thing is certain, fundamentals still matter!

Decision makers need to free up “bandwidth” to deal with this dynamic economic environment. The old adage, “you only get one chance” has never been truer than in today’s fast-paced economic development world. (Scroll to bottom of post to read Ann and John’s “Must Dos” for Latin America Economic Development Agencies.)

First-Tier Issues

There are obvious threshold issues that must be addressed up front by those seeking contact center investments. Among those fundamentals that must be in place include:

  • Assurances regarding the free movement of capital
  • Infrastructure (telecommunications, electricity, water, sewer, transportation)
  • Labor availability (accurately represented)
  • An accurate inventory of economically usable real estate

Yes, the economist’s adage of “land, labor and capital” is still among the most important location criteria. A top-notch economic development agency will be able to clearly demonstrate these fundamentals, associated costs, and provide a reassuring amount of discussion on reliability.

Make information and analyses easy to access, relevant and comparative. Is the labor and demographic information up-to-date and reliable? Are there trends that can be highlighted to make a point and make your clients’ job easier?

Efficient Client Servicing

After first tier issues come an important second tier, which is what we’ll call “customer service.” It’s not just about putting a smile in the voice; it is increasingly about time-expedient service, with the key word being “expedient.”

A book on this titled, “The Best Service is No Service: How to Liberate Your Customers From Customer Service, Keep Them Happy & Control Costs”, where authors Bill Price and David Jaffe urge in their second of seven key points:  “eliminate dumb contacts.” For the purposes of this article, we change the negative to a positive by simply saying, “maximize smart contacts.”

In other words, make each contact with site selection and corporate facilities executives as productive as possible. Make it easy for prospective investors to contact your key people. Don’t worry so much about being modest. Get to the point firmly and quickly, and make information and analyses easy to access, relevant and comparative. Is the labor and demographic information up-to-date and reliable? Are there trends that can be highlighted to make a point and make your clients’ job easier?

Along with this ease of client interface comes the need for consistent messaging (do you have consistent messaging and if so, is it being broadcast as a clear, easy-to-grasp message in the media, at trade shows, on your web page, to your stakeholders, etc?), information integrity (are the facts you present soundly based and referenced?) and staff tenure (how successful is your organization at keeping staff?). It is counterproductive to encourage job- and tax-generating investments in an environment where staffing changes are so frequent that familiar and trusted contacts move through an ever-revolving door. It’s important for corporate facilities directors and site location consultants to have a key contact to see a project through from beginning to completion.

Two-Part Service Model

The most efficient and effective corporate facilities directors and site location consultants increasingly want a combination of guided investigation and self-help. So if, after a site tour, your clients have returned to their headquarters and are compiling a report on their recommendations or findings, they must be able to easily access information on their own and quickly. They’ll get back to you if they need additional follow up, but for the basics, it’s most productive if they have the choice and flexibility to find necessary information from their desktop. Is the data you have provided at the site visit and via your web page easily accessible and understandable? In a format that is useable?

To sum up, this approach increasingly has two facets: the individual relationship (nurture, build confidence, serve as the “lifeline”) and the archival (richness and relevance of database and relevant information, ease of access of the information, integrity of the data and its sourcing and verifiability).

Follow Up


Follow up is essential for a number of reasons, not the least of which is building a reputation as a professional, reliable and facilitative economic development organization. “Word-of-mouth” is efficient in the corporate facilities executive world, and you will be known for the service and information you provide.

But just as important is that in the current world, facilities investors in job-generating investments are likely to follow a successful investment with a second or expanded investment. You want to be positioned to capitalize on this. Let your hard work do double-duty. If the investment is productive, it is a validation of your organization, with hopefully more successes to follow. Does your organization have an after-care department or follow-up procedures in place?

Between cultures, there is always a nuance or two that gets lost. The new law, the new ethic, the new market condition and the new technology keeps this a dynamic process. Maintaining and nurturing a customer service structure as outlined will go a long way to gaining trust, creating and maintaining a reputation as a leader in economic development, and ultimately favor, by those whose jobs rely on their performance in these site and facilities ventures.

17 Must-Do’s for Latin America Economic Development Agencies

  1. Don’t be modest. Promote what you have relative to other offshore destinations.
  2. Have a consistent message.
  3. Continuity of staff is critical, especially when a new political party is elected.
  4. Have enough staff to see projects through to completion.
  5. Create “one-stop shopping” for site location consultants and corporate facilities directors.
  6. Keep demographic information up-to-date and at-the-ready. Have consolidated demographic data specifically for BPO/contact centers.
  7. Know the English bilingual labor and its capabilities of your area. Similarly, have good English language training programs in place and know their capabilities.
  8. Don’t just sell the benefits of your country; always provide solid facts. Do not over-promise and under-deliver. Be in this for the long term.
  9. Trade shows – it’s more than just attending and having a booth. Do the following:
    1. Pre-set appointments with potential clients. Be prepared to present case studies of success stories and what differentiates your city/country from the competition.
    2. Bring in-country private sector investors to accompany you to provide testimony.
    3. Network, network, network and tell your story
    4. Host an event with select potential clients
    5. Be a presenter or on a panel discussion. Be seen as the expert.
  10. Get mentioned in the media space that potential investors read and trust.
  11. Find out what differentiates your city/country over the competition (and know your competition)
  12. Work and partner with in-country developers but do not let them lead the economic development process. Your organization needs to be seen as the lead liaison between developers and investors.
  13. Ensure your country has good data protection laws and be well-versed about them
  14. Know and promote cultural affinity with the country of origin for your client.
  15. Have floating Free Trade Zones with processes that allow for quick turn-around. Be intimately familiar with the process and timelines.
  16. Remember…it’s all about “speed to market.” How can your organization expedite this process for the client?
  17. Once the project is complete, don’t forget about your client. Follow up with an “after care” program

Ann Harts is CEO and President of HartsGroup, Inc., in the Kansas City, KS area and is a frequent columnist for Nearshore Americas. John Roberts, CEcD EM, is in Sacramento, CA and has published on international investment and corporate facility locations in Dow Jones’ Asian Wall Street Journal and the Journal of the American Economic Development Association.

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Kirk Laughlin

Kirk Laughlin is an award-winning editor and subject expert in information technology and offshore BPO/ contact center strategies.

1 comment

  • Excellent article, "economic development 101". I am involved in FDI attraction, and the issues that I see again and again are:

    1. the potential investors always ask for the same data: infrastructure, labor, real estate, incentives; and the data is not actualized/available. The idea of having data ready for access by the potential investor (self-service model) is excellent

    2. The potential investors want to know about THEIR industry segment – if I am doing BPO I want to know about BPO, if I am doing embedded software I want to know about embedded software. The pitch cannot be generic (although some of the data may be). A common mistake is to talk about how great we are at electronic manufacturing to an investor that is interested in application development !

    3. Follow up is key> Many times excellent visits go nowhere because there was no follow up