Every month, hundreds of people around the world Google ‘Is Uruguay a developed country’. Uruguay is primarily agricultural—95% of the country is rural. Our South American neighbours associate us with tourism, our second industry. So most people are shocked to learn that the fifth largest exporter of software per capita in the world is… Uruguay.
Interestingly, the area of greatest economic development at the moment is actually not in the capital city. It’s around the International Airport which lies in the department of Canelones, just beyond Montevideo.
Canelones is Uruguay’s second department population-wise and the nation’s principal supplier of fruit and vegetables. It’s very green and flat. There are dozens of vineyards and the airport is just twenty minutes away from the fine white beaches of Canelones’ Costa de Oro.
And there beside the airport is an industrial corridor, along Route 101, as well as a number of free trade zones, where big hitters like Google are buying in. World-class striker Luis Suárez is also setting up shop close by.
What is attracting them? In large part, a program of incentives by the government of Canelones and location—proximity to the International Airport and the port of Montevideo (40 minutes via ring-road).
As we can’t find anything written about this in English, Guru’Guay, thanks to support from developers, Balsa y Asociados, is here to give you the lay of the land of Uruguay’s up-and-coming industrial corridor.
Route 101 corridor and free trade zones
Stretching from the airport to the Pando bypass, Uruguay’s number one industrial and logistical corridor runs almost 10 miles (15 km) along Route 101. Development began 20 years ago when Montevideo passed legislation to limit heavy goods transit and large factories. After a slow start, development has really picked up over the last 10 years. Currently there are about 300 companies and three billion dollars invested.
Photo courtesy of Intendencia de Canelones
The Science Park (Parque de las ciencias)
A free trade zone designed to provide cutting-edge infrastructure for high-tech industries like pharmaceuticals. The park was established in 2011 and hosts over sixty companies. Fifty-five hectares are currently in use, with a further 30 hectares to anticipate future demand—clever thinking with land prices currently going through the roof (12- 50 dollars per metre for land depending on proximity to the 101 in December 2021).
In 2021, Google acquired land in the Science Park for a data centre “to guarantee options to continue expanding… If the business requires.” Google has other data centres in São Paulo, Brazil and Santiago de Chile and does seem to have their eye on Uruguay. The data centre land purchase was accompanied by an announcement of a high-speed undersea cable, the longest self-powered in the world, to link Google on the east coast of the USA to Argentina with a landing point in Uruguay at Punta del Este.
Photo courtesy of Intendencia de Canelones
East Zone Industrial and Logistics Park (Zona Este Parque Industrial y logístico)
Home to household names like Danone, Nestle, L’Oreal and Sherwin Williams.
San Juan Logistics Park (Parque Logistico San Juan)
The five-hectare industrial park is under construction directly opposite Zona Este.
Zonamerica is a business and technology park on 92 hectares and was Uruguay’s very first free trade zone founded in 1990. Though geographically Zonamerica lies in the department of Montevideo, we include it here for its logistical proximity—a mere twelve minutes drive north-west from Route 101 and the airport. Today 7,500 people work there in 350 companies in 30 buildings—88% of which are shared rental spaces. Services include global and regional headquarters, financial services, software development, call centres, regional logistics and distribution centres. Companies include Tata, Citibank and Price Waterhouse Cooper. In 2019 Zonamerica was responsible for 2.2 billion USD of Uruguay’s total free trade zone exports of 5.3 billion USD.
It’s not just business in its purest form that’s attracted to Uruguay. After all, Uruguay does have one of the most successful international football teams in the world. City Football Group, the owners of Manchester City and New York city football clubs, bought an obsolete Uruguayan football team called Torque in 2017. They renamed it Montevideo City Torque and in 2021 unveiled a football academy housing women’s, men’s and youth teams, club staff and foundation projects. MCT also acts as headquarters for scouting opportunities in South America. The club is located just off Route 101.
And Uruguay football ace Luis Suárez is in on the act. One of the best strikers in the world, Suárez will likely be retiring from the game in the next few years, now that he is in his mid 30s. In the meantime he opened a sports complex in 2018 on the Canelones coast and is currently developing a new sports complex on Camino de Los Horneros just off Route 101.
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