The Balearic Islands are putting out the welcome mat for foreign entrepreneurs and investors. Jan Edwards meets César Nuño Pacheco, the man behind the plan to make it happen.
When more than 60 resident foreign business people attended a public debate at Palma’s Centre Balears Europa last November, they heard how businesses and entrepreneurs were going to benefit from the new law to support entrepreneurship and stimulate growth and job creation here. They were also able to enter into a frank, initial dialogue about issues affecting foreign residents in business here.
Even a dyed-in-the-wool cynic might have felt a glimmer of hope for the future, when César Nuño Pacheco – the Balearic Government’s director general of commerce and enterprise – told attendees: “The crisis is an opportunity . . . it’s opened eyes in government.”
The debate opened up important channels of communication between the regional government and what Pacheco calls his “customers” (entrepreneurs and businesses in the Balearics). Another public meeting was held this March, when a plan to make the four Balearics Islands “good places for doing business” was discussed.
I met César Pacheco at his office, on the edge of the Son Castelló industrial estate, to find out more about the ‘Plan de Captación de Inversión’. He told me the objective is to create “employment, income, and wealth for the citizens of the Balearic Islands.”
In line with the EU Regional Strategy for Smart Specialisation (RISS), the focus will be on five strategic business sectors, with the most potential for growth: tourism and leisure, marine and nautical, environment (including water, agriculture and bioscience), health, and the creative industries. However, there are opportunities in any sector.
The islands are well-known as tourist destinations, but Pacheco told me the Balearics also have to be positioned as an ideal location for national and international investors, investment projects, and new businesses.
I had already seen a working document for the plan – resulting from a series of information-exchanges with key foreign resident entrepreneurs. Pacheco acknowledged the importance of the contribution made by these foreign business people: “They are my customers,” said Pacheco. “I need to know my customers to be able to give them the service, products and knowledge they need.”
So the planning team – comprising public and private sectors – includes foreigners, who bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the table: “We are lucky to have so many foreign residents in business here. We have to take advantage of their knowledge, and learn what it was like for them to start a business here.”
Red tape is an issue being addressed: “We are working on simplifying everything,” Pacheco explained. “This is difficult, because the laws and processes here are like a huge web that we have to cut, to make it easier to start a business, make an investment, or become an entrepreneur – not just for foreigners, but also for local people.”
His challenges? “That people believe in us; that they want to believe.” he said. “Simplifying the administration processes, and measuring results. And positioning the islands as a location for investment and business.”
The specifics of the ‘Plan de Captación de Inversión’ are not yet finalised and ready for public airing; Pacheco and his direct team are still gathering information. “We must focus on the customer in everything we do in public administration – the customer who comes from abroad and from our own islands.”
They also have to work across five levels of public administration here – including municipal councils. So, in Pacheco’s words, progress will be “paso a paso”. Not a quick fix then, but this passionate team leader seems to have a strong desire to make a real difference.
“We are open to any proposals,” Cesar Pacheco told me, before he had to leave for another meeting. “We are working to change things and we really want to help.”