RP firm poised to sign deal with Chicago architectural outfit

PINOY Newsmagazine/Philippine News
December 2007

Text and photo by Ted Regencia

CHICAGO — A Chicago-based architectural company is poised to sign a deal that would allow Filipino architects to produce designs for their projects, Philippine Board of Investments (BOI) Executive Director Celeste Ilagan said.

“We are very positive that this trip will result to a number of contracts for this company in Chicago. This is one of the most productive legs of the trip,” Ilagan said in an exclusive interview. Details of the deal remain sealed until the contract is finalized.

Ilagan was in Chicago for an investment mission promoting the Philippines as a location for Information Technology (IT) and IT-enabled services. While here, she also spoke at the “Bayanihan Sa Amerika” conference hosted by the Philippine Consulate last October 27 at the Sheraton Gateway Suites.

“Architectural and engineering design is among the areas, where we think the Filipinos will be able to serve the requirements of the US,” Ilagan said.

At least four meetings with large design firms here in Chicago were held, and the companies have become “very interested with the value proposition of the Philippines”, Ilagan added. “This one company that’s with me in this delegation is very positive, and they are looking forward to coming back soon.”

In the Philippines, IT-related industries including design as well as animation have thrived with expected 30 to 35 percent annual increase, and is projected to become a $12-billion industry by 2010.

Citing the success of luring the biggest call centers to the Philippines, Ilagan said that getting the first deal with an architectural firm in Chicago, “starts the ball rolling for the Philippines.” Chicago is recognized as a pioneer in modern architectural design and home to the many highly-respected architectural firms.

As part of their sales pitch, Ilagan highlighted the availability of highly-trained Filipino architects who will do the work for Chicago-based firms.

“Simple drawings for example are done in the Philippines by architects, while here, probably they are [done by] draftsmen,” Ilagan said. “The added benefit to that is, because they are architects, they know the whole system and sometimes they are even able to suggest modifications that will improve the design given to them by their clients.”

In terms of skills, Ilagan said that Filipino architects are at par with their American counterparts. “Our workers are even more qualified because they are architects, they are registered and they are licensed. So they add more value to the work…so the work being done is accurate and the turnaround is efficient,” she added.

To convince these companies, Ilagan also needed to “sell the country” as the ideal place for investment.

“To the investors, there is a wide range of opportunities to explore in the Philippines. From manufacturing to service-oriented activities. And it is not just taking our word for it, we invite them to visit because there are certain things that they hear about the Philippines, which are negative. But when they come to the Philippines, their perception of the country will totally change,” Ilagan said.

One advantage is the availability of an educated, English-speaking manpower. She pointed out that the Philippines has a 35-million strong labor force, with 400,000 graduates every year including 85,000 in the field of IT, computer science and engineering.

Operating in the Philippines is also cost-efficient, with rental of business space at a minimum price, Ilagan said, while citing multi-year tax incentives and tax holidays given to large-scale investors.

Another advantage is the existence of broadband Internet connection that would enable companies to communicate efficiently, she said. She pointed out that companies such as HSBC, Dell computer company and the largest American call center Convergy’s have relied on this IT infrastructure and connectivity. Convergy’s, for example, now employs 11,000 in seven centers in Manila, Ilagan said.

As this developed, Philippine Trade Representative to Chicago Glenn Penaranda gave assurance that investors can operate in the Philippines free of red-tape and bureaucratic delays.

“We will not tolerate graft and corruption,” Penaranda said during his presentation, to applause from delegates of the conference.

He offered the services of the Department of Trade and Industry, as a “one-stop action center” that would address the needs of investors, and guide them through the governmental processes before they can operate their business.

Penaranda also advised small and medium-scale investors, including Chicago-based Filipinos who are considering to invest in their hometowns to contact his office and ask about the “One Town, One Product” program, to maximize the productivity of their investments.

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