From a Latin American perspective, the second annual Americas Competitiveness Forum in Atlanta is an opportunity to share best practices for fostering innovation to boost the region’s global competitiveness.

The Aug. 17-19 event at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta will bring together public and private sector actors from the Western Hemisphere to discuss strategies for innovation and economic growth.

It expected to draw attendees from business, government, academia and non-governmental organizations from at least 25 countries.

One of the forum panels includes heads of three Latin American nations, Alvaro Colom Caballeros, president of Guatemala, Elias Antonio Saca Gonzalez, president of El Salvador and Alvaro Uribe Velez, president of Colombia.

The South American nation of Uruguay will be sending a delegation led by Industry, Energy and Mining Minister Daniel Martinez, Ambassador Carlos Alberto Gianelli Derois and U.S. Ambassador Frank Baxter, who will highlight the South American country’s advancements in information technology, logistics, alternative energy and human capital development.

“We plan to use this opportunity to further raise Uruguay’s profile in the hemisphere and give Uruguayan entrepreneurs a chance to learn about doing business in the states,” Mr. Baxter told GlobalAtlanta during an event in Montevideo, Uruguay’s capital, on July 30.

He will also promote the second Americas Innovation Forum, which he expects will be held in Uruguay in 2009, though it has not yet been confirmed. The first Americas Innovation Forum, which was inspired by the inaugural Americas Competitiveness Forum last year, was held in Punta del Este, Uruguay, in March.

“We aim to prove that Uruguay is the innovation center of South America,” Mr. Baxter said.

Miguel Brechner, president of the Uruguay Technological Laboratory, a government-funded, privately operated organization, is to speak about the country’s innovation in public-private partnerships.

Among other projects, his lab handled the roll-out of the international “One Laptop Per Child” program, which provides a laptop computer to each public school child in Uruguay.

Uruguay’s National Research and Innovation Agency, which was recently awarded a $34 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank to encourage more technological innovation, is also sending a delegation to the forum, Mr. Brechner said.

Other presentations in the “Alliances in Business and Education” track of the forum will address how partnerships between universities and the private sector have commercialized research.

The “Trade Logistics” track will look at best practices in logistics operations, sourcing and supply chain management that can increase trade in the Americas.

Alternative energy solutions will be the focus of the “Market Opportunities in Renewable Energy and Sustainable Resources” track. The “Travel and Tourism in the Americas” track will address sustainable tourism development, travel companies’ growth strategies and tourism policies in the hemisphere.

Discussions will also focus on market opportunities in five different trade regions: NAFTA, the Caribbean, Central America, Andean countries and South America’s Southern Cone.

Álvaro Baltodano, Nicaragua’s presidential delegate for investment promotion and executive secretary of the country’s Free Zones Corporation, is to present opportunities for investors in Nicaragua to access its trading partners in DR-CAFTA and the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, or ALBA, an economic, social and political partnership among Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

“It is important to re-introduce Nicaragua as a country with big opportunities in doing business, who offers investors access to international markets, fiscal incentives, abundant natural resources, qualified workforce and high civil safety,” Mr. Baltodano told GlobalAtlanta in an e-mail.

“As Nicaragua changes with the development of new projects in the infrastructure, the costs of energy will lower. These investments and initiatives will allow us to be one of the most competitive countries in the Central American region,” he wrote.

Other topics at the forum are to include the Americas’ image in the world, government perspectives on competitiveness in the region, competitiveness councils, water supply, workforce health, sourcing, alliances for entrepreneurship and innovation, textiles and apparel, small and medium enterprise development, angel investing and venture capital.

Rodolfo Oppenheimer, senior partner of Prosperitas Capital Partners, a financial management company that established the first venture capital fund in Uruguay, is to be a speaker on a panel discussing the development of venture capital in Latin America, especially in Costa Rica, Uruguay and Mexico, as well as the involvement of the International Monetary Fund as a catalyst for creating venture funds.

“This conference will be beneficial because our target audience is policy makers. We will be talking to them to develop the right environment and right ecosystem to allow venture capital and innovation to prosper,” Mr. Oppenheimer told GlobalAtlanta. “We are identifying the areas we need help in to develop a more friendly environment for venture capital,” he said of Prosperitas, which invests in small- and medium-sized companies with promising technologies for the information technology, service and agribusiness industries.

Other Latin American organizations will be attending the forum for networking opportunities and to learn from the best practices of their counterparts in other countries.

Representatives of Zonamerica, a free trade business park in Uruguay, will be at the Atlanta forum to learn about developing closer relationships between universities and entrepreneurs, as well as other factors of competitiveness, according to Zonamerica Vice President Isidoro Hodara.

“In addition to networking, the usefulness of this forum lies also in learning what other countries are doing to increase their competitiveness. This gives us a much better position from which to judge what to do in the future,” he told GlobalAtlanta during an interview in Montevideo. Dr. Hodara, who is also an international affairs professor at Universidad ORT Uruguay in Montevideo, added that a high point in the forum will be a talk by Jerry Haar, co-editor of a recent book, “Can Latin America Compete? Confronting the Challenges of Globalization.

Key addresses at the Atlanta forum will be given by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue and Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin. The event is being organized by the U.S. Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration, CIFAL Atlanta and the City of Atlanta.

Online registration for the event will close on Friday, Aug. 15, at 6pm. Onsite registration will be available at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta, Aug. 17-19.