Panama City has been in the build out mode for a long time. The city’s towering edifices of concrete, steel and glass are awash in a gleaming sparkle, from the sun reflecting off the Pacific Ocean. As you look into the building to the left, one can notice the reflections from the blue hues of the bay on Balboa Avenue.
The city and country is also radiating a sense of the vibrant and abundant growth of a strong middle class, the barometer of any stable society. When an economy is strong, not just at the top end, it becomes quite apparent in places like the retail sector. Everything from car dealers, from a Mercedes to a Chevy, to custom made suits, to the vast array of restaurants who are all actively doing business. There are super modern malls, and areas of downtown that could be like Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, or Greenwich Avenue in Greenwich, CT.
The international top names are here. Panama has 200 plus franchises with more on the way. Names like Cartier, Tommy Hilfiger, Bulgari, Calvin Klein, Liz Claiborne, Perry Ellis, Hugo Boss, Oscar de la Renta, Nine West, Kenneth Cole, Apple Store, Nike, Reebok, the Golden Arches, Bennigans, Blockbuster and Speedo just begin to start the list.
Panama City is getting well known as a paradise for shoppers. The city has large shopping districts as well as modern shopping malls, such as the Multicentro Mall, Multiplaza Pacific Mall and the Albrook Mall.
The Newspaper La Prensa web site estimates, 75% of the Panamanian commercial sector operates under the franchise model. An interesting read: “The advantage of owning a franchise is that you can start right away, as everything is already done. When a business of this kind is started, the owner of the franchise provides procedure, quality, training and health manuals. Thus making operation easier”, to quote businessman Roberto Alfaro.
Panama has started several franchises that are doing quite well within the Country. Duran Coffee’s cafés have sky-rocked in popularity over the last few years, and fast food restaurant Pio Pio.
Panama is claiming, and well it should, that they are emerging as first world country, which is readily visible in Panama City. It is different however than it is in the States, or most other countries. Panama is by no means flaunting their increasing financial stability and growth. What we have all witnessed throughout the world is the materialism just for the sake of the flash. It can be seen that this country understands the being modest with their spending, limiting excess. Panamanians are not stretched to the limit as their Northern neighbors are in this day and age of higher debt. This culture is showing all signs of becoming more affluent and being wiser with that gift. The country is growing, and credit has to be given to this isthmus for it is gaining economic strength.
Much like the States, Panama is a melting pot of the world. You will find all nationalities, and religions here. Going back to the 1800’s, and before, there was a substantial increase in immigration from China, the Caribbean, Spain, Portugal, Russia as well as the Americans who came in droves. This international mix makes everyone feel a bit more at ease and at home, rather than being in a completely different culture.
Because of the international flavor here, companies from all over the world are setting up shop here. There is everything from call centers to Caterpillar to Dell, to the luxury retail lines creating a financial future that is in a more secure state of affairs than ever before. It is not just the expansion of the Canal; it is the expansion of all levels of business.
Additionally fanning the growth is the city that is being built just out side the City of Panama across the Bridge of Americas, on the former Howard Air Force Base. In 1999, the United States gave back to Panama the property of their military bases, Howard Air Force Base being one of the them. The grounds are absolutely beautiful and a perfect place for creating a whole new, modern community of businesses and residences. In place already, is an 8,500 foot runway that can accommodate commercial airlines as well as they do at Tocumen on the other side of Panama City.
This past July the administrator of the Tourism Authority of Panama (ATP), Salomon Shamash, has indicated that the government plans to transform the once stately Howard Air Force base into a major airport increasing the attraction of European and international tourists to the region. Already a number of northern Europeans have chosen to retire in Panama instead of Spain or France.
An ending thought, and one that is most significant. Panama is financially secure. President Martinelli, a conservative and who took the helm on July 1 of this year, 2009 has made it well know he is on the progress path and is in the beginning days of the biggest push of job creation ever under taken for his country. Panama is well underway to being the shinning star to do business in Latin America.
For more info on Panama: PanamaQmagazine