Nearshore Americas

Barranquilla Drew Major BPO Attention and Investment in 2023

Last year was one of bonanza for Colombia’s Atlantico Department, where the city of Barranquilla is located, thanks to dozens of BPOs setting up shop there and creating nearly a thousand jobs.

Foundever, Sagality, Solvo Globa and Hinduja Global Services (HGS) were some of the biggest names to land in the Atlantico region. Foundever alone created 400 jobs, most of them for bilinguals.

ProBarranquilla, a key investment promotion agency in the region, reported a remarkable 130% increase in foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2023, reaching a staggering US$602 million.

The services sector, with BPOs taking center stage, accounted for 46% of  foreign capital inflows.

As many as 28 companies from the manufacturing and services sector expanded operations into the province, generating 2,234 direct jobs. Nearly 80% of these investments came from companies headquartered in the United States, Italy and Spain, ProBarranquilla added.

Colombia’s Atlantico Department is well known among foreign investors. In mid 2022, ProBarranquilla reported that it had processed around US$1.3 billion in foreign investment flows over a period of five years.

ProBarranquilla’s authorities have atributed the success of the region to the “English for Work” program. Launched in late 2021 by the government of Barranquilla, the program seeks to increase the number of bilinguals in the region’s main city, aiming for 8,000 graduates by the end of 2023.

As of today, Barranquilla’s authorities haven’t informed if that goal was met. The latest data provided points to a decrease in the number of students in the lowest level of proficiency (from 45% of the total in 2022 to 38% in 2023), as well as a very slight increase (from 11% to 12%) in students with B1 and B+ proficiency.

The costs of popularity

Barranquilla’s BPO boom comes with its own set of challenges, however. The influx of companies caused a ripple effect on Barranquilla’s real estate market, pushing rental costs upwards.

A report by local news outlet El Heraldo shows that office vacancy rates have plummeted from their pre-2019 average of 25-27%. Finding suitable office space, particularly for large call centers requiring 600 square meters, has become increasingly difficult.

The popularization of remote work left a lot of offices vacant, leading some to fear a collapse of the office real estate market in urban areas like Barranquilla. Nevertheless, once the fears over COVID faded, several businesses began to call their workers back to the office.

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Employers and employees are still entangled in a tug of war over return to the office policies. In the meantime, the office rental market seems to be reviving in Colombia’s main cities.

Some of our expert sources have pointed not to the return of a pre-COVID status quo, but to the emergence of smaller offices and collabirative spaces designed to woo potential recruits and lure staff back into the workspace.

Narayan Ammachchi

News Editor for Nearshore Americas, Narayan Ammachchi is a career journalist with a decade of experience in politics and international business. He works out of his base in the Indian Silicon City of Bangalore.

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