It’s a country where bitcoin is legal tender and where Google Cloud just launched a multi-year deal to provide the digital underpinning for improved governance, health care and education.
As El Salvador seeks to remake its image as a haven for tech, tourism and innovation — overcoming a longstanding narrative of corruption, gang violence and cheap manufacturing — some Georgians seem to be giving the country the benefit of the doubt.
In its first foreign business mission in about a decade, the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is taking a group of local businesses to the Central American country Oct. 25-29 to explore investment and trade opportunities.
Chamber leaders including President and CEO Veronica Maldonado laid out the plans for the trip during an Aug. 31 preview luncheon, noting that high-level business meetings will be interspersed with down-to-earth cultural experiences that will get participants acquainted with the country’s secret sauce: its people.
Not only is the “Discovering El Salvador” trip a chance to understand the market, with unrivaled access to government and insight from private-sector leaders, but it also “holds immense potential for your business growth and personal development,” Ms. Maldonado wrote in an email.
“This mission promises not only invaluable business opportunities but also unforgettable cultural experiences. From exploring volcanic landscapes to savoring the beauty of San Salvador and Surf City, your journey with us will be both professionally and personally enriching,” she promised in a message promoting the trip to members.
Seeds for the mission were sown during a March visit to Atlanta by Salvadoran Ambassador Milena Mayorga, a former beauty queen who pitched the country’s national “rebranding” to legislators and business leaders alike.
Consul General Monica Marin helped plan the ambassador’s visit and is pleased that it seems to be generating the desired followup.
“For me it has been like a dream cone true to be here representing my country, especially since everybody has an interest in going to El Salvador and exploring the beauty that we have as a country and also the commercial opportunities that we offer to investors,” Ms. Marin said during the Aug. 31 luncheon.
Among other sectors, El Salvador is a strong apparel manufacturer and offers airlines a solid base of maintenance, repair and overhaul capabilities and an airport that has 35 destinations reachable by direct flight.
Ms. Marin said the government is offering a variety of tax incentives to woo foreign investors even as it enacts reforms that should make setting up and operating a business smoother.
“We are dreaming big,” she said, echoing the ambassador’s sentiment that Georgia is a key state with “a lot of big companies I would love to have in El Salvador.”
Clearly, the country’s diplomats are taking their cues from 39-year-old President Nayib Bukele, who had this to say in the news release on the Google Cloud announcement:
“El Salvador is moving forward. We believe technology and foreign investment are key for development. We are quickly becoming a hub for innovation. This groundbreaking alliance with Google Cloud opens unprecedented avenues for innovation, economic growth, and enhanced public services. Google’s global expertise combined with El Salvador’s audacity is set to redefine the technological landscape.”El Salvador President Nayib Bukele
The GHCC mission comes amid a migrant crisis at the U.S. southern border, where the government seeks to stem the tide of thousands of migrants making illegal crossings each day. Many of the migrants hail from the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala and are fleeing violence and extortion.
A centerpiece of a Biden administration plan spearheaded by Vice President Kamala Harris to address the “root causes” of migration is to foster economic development and bolster civic institutions.
El Salvador, a country with about the same number of inhabitants as Metro Atlanta (a little more than 6 million) has a large diaspora community in Georgia. Most live in Gwinnett County, where the consulate general is located.