Invest in Andalusia: Andalusian Allure – Antonio Valverde

Though it is better known as one of Europe's most popular holiday destinations, Andalusia in Spain is increasingly being considered by global companies looking to gain a foothold in Southern Europe and beyond. Agency for Innovation and Development of Andalusia managing director Antonio Valverde reveals why the region has become so attractive to domestic and foreign corporates alike.

What makes Andalusia an attractive area to establish a company or subsidiary?

The region is an ideal platform for access to the European, African, Latin American and Middle-Eastern markets – it's the most important logistics hub in the south of Europe, with renewed infrastructure and high market potential.

It is also a region of international talent, with a population younger than the European average and a workforce with strong training and skills. More than 60% of the working-age population has middle or higher-level training, and more than 200,000 young people are enrolled at local universities.

Moreover, Andalusia offers companies productivity above the EU average, attractive wage policies and much lower operating costs than those of other European countries. More than 20,000 foreign companies have set up here, and they have all discovered that the region offers the resources they need to successfully compete in the market.

From what industries are they particularly drawn?

The region is recognised as a reference point in cutting-edge technology; despite the global economic crisis, innovative sectors such as aeronautics, biotechnology, renewable energy, and information and communications technology are still experiencing significant growth.

Andalusia has consolidated its position as the second most important Spanish region in the aeronautical industry, and one of the most important in Europe. It is also a leader in the creation of biotechnology companies in Spain, and the country's first research using stem cells was performed here.

Innovation is considered an essential tool for improving competitiveness and creating a positive business environment to attract global companies to the region. Andalusia is a pioneering region in renewable energy R&D, and home to Abengoa, the global leader in thermal solar energy. IT is another very dynamic sector, and the first cloud-computing centre in Spain was recently established here.

What are the long-term benefits for companies that make the move to Andalusia?

"Andalusia offers companies productivity above the EU average, attractive wage policies and much lower operating costs than those of other European countries."

The region boasts social and legal stability and an extensive market of more than eight million consumers that continues to grow. As a convergence region, Andalusia offers the maximum intensity of incentives permitted by the EU.

The region presents a number of business opportunities for implementing projects to create and modernise companies, and encouraging corporate cooperation and R&D projects. This aid varies between 30-50% of the maximum amount of funds, depending on the size of the company.

The Andalusian Government is a modern administration that enjoys close ties to business, offering an integrated service to foreign companies planning to set up or to expand in the region. It knows that starting a new business or even deciding to investigate the possibility of starting a business is not an easy decision; this is why the government has created the Invest in Andalusia initiative, which offers foreign investors customised and confidential support services free of charge.

What interest have you seen from foreign markets?

Traditionally, France, the US and the UK have been the predominant foreign investors in Andalusia, but the number of Asian investors is rising because of its access to the European and Latin American markets. Multinational firm Oracle has recently opened its European sales centre for business software and hardware solutions in Andalusia Technology Park, providing employment for 200 professionally qualified people within two years.

Why do such companies choose Andalusia over other Spanish regions?

Labour costs in Spain are among the lowest in the EU-15, and lower still in Andalusia. The region also offers one of the most complete schemes of incentives, access to locations at competitive prices and a network of modern technology parks. Andalusia also boasts low staff turnover, with a monthly rate of 1-7%. This, along with the workforce's high sense of commitment to achieving objectives, is a major differentiator.