President places his bet on creating entrepreneurs

The central government seems to be putting heavy emphasis on entrepreneurship to boost the national economy.

Two weeks ago President Luis Guillermo Solís decreed a new policy of entrepreneurship which seeks to promote the creation of new businesses. In announcing the plan, Solís said that the decree and the restructured Banca para el Desarrollo are two tools for creating small- and medium-sized new enterprises and quality employment.

Monday, the economics ministry said that it is creating an agency to implement the policy for small business. The new agency will be called  ProEmpresa.

The ministry, the Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio, held a workshop Monday to discuss what characteristics would be desirable in such an agency for development. Attending were lawmakers and representatives of the public and private sectors.

The ministry said that ProEmpresa would let up a dynamic program of services, both financial and non-financial, to help develop businesses.

From his public comments, the president is seeking something other than lone wolf entrepreneurship, like Steve Jobs in his garage in 1976 inventing the Apple computer. The president has called for a public, private and academic alliance. He sees the application of high tech as a way to create new products, according to Casa Presidencial.

For every Internet expert inventing a new app, the government’s small- and medium-sized business program now seems to host dozens of small food producers. These make jams, salsas and even flavored alcoholic beverages. Few have been able to carry their products to the major supermarkets much less for export.

A lot of business information is online, business120214including at the government site for small businesses, Pymes Costa Rica. The site is set up by the ministry in conjunction with the Instituto Nacional de Aprendizaje, the government training agency.

State banks have special loan programs for small businesses, particularly for those associated with the government PYMES program. The acronym is taken from the Spanish pequeña y mediana empresas.

For some the government Web site might be a bit daunting because it shows the various legal steps that must be taken to form a business and comply with existing laws. The site also points to the Promotora del Comercio Exterior de Costa Rica, known as PROCOMER, for assistance in exporting.

The statistics seem to be against many startups, despite government help. Even the most optimistic statistics show about 50 percent fail in a few years. The main reason seems to be failure to understand the local market and lack of marketing.

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