Q: in 2018, Porto saw its highest number of greenfield foreign investments since 2008. Why was that?
A: Ten years ago, the public space was very mistreated and the historic centre was, as someone called it, 'the donut hole' [in that the historic centre was empty of life and investment]. This has changed thanks to a set of public policies accompanied by private entrepreneurship.
Porto’s momentum is persisting [and all of the factors that make the city] a unique place for business are still in place: our quality of life, the fantastic availability of talent, a first-class infrastructure and city governance that is very focused on enabling the city with a multi-functional ecosystem.
Porto is an open city with a vibrant cultural life, a resurgent entrepreneurial scene, a world-class university and a unique city centre, which carries a culture of diversity in its genes. We combine cultural heritage with innovation.
Q: What are the most exciting opportunities in Porto for foreign investors?
A: Porto has priority clusters for investment, such as advanced engineering, technologies and materials. We are home to Productech, the Production Technologies Cluster, which is comprised of world-class entities in areas such as industrial automation, advanced computing systems, materials and composite structures, mechanical engineering design and product development.
Health and life sciences is another key area. Health Cluster Portugal, based in Porto, is a prominent, fast-evolving cluster that carries out world-class research in areas such as neurosciences, cancer, immunology, regenerative medicine and nanomedicine.
Porto’s nearshore services are exciting too. Several nearshore centres are already based here, acting as engineering, shared services and contact centres for countries all over the world. Porto has clear advantages in terms of strategic location, being geographically located in a time zone with minimal deviation in relation to Central European Time.
The city’s transport industry is another priority sector. Portugal is a pioneer in the development of new energy models for sustainable transport, and Porto was at the core of this achievement, supplying leading aeronautics and automotive companies. The cluster is managed by the CEiiA-Centre for Mobility Industries.
Our creative industry cluster is also special, for fashion, footwear, jewellery, music, film and more. Porto has also a solid reputation in architecture. The city is the hometown of two Pritzker Prize-winning architects, and the Porto School of Architecture is an international reference in contemporary architecture.
Q: How are you further improving Porto’s business environment, and what are the remaining challenges?
A: As examples of public investments, we are developing a new area of the city, Campanhã, on the east side, and making relevant investments to prepare the city to be more competitive.
First is the Campanhã Intermodal Transport Terminal. Expected to be finished in 2021, the new terminal will integrate different mobility solutions, buses, trains, metro and taxis [and improve regional and international connectivity]. It [will hopefully] become a leading hub in the northern region of Portugal.
We are also converting the former Porto slaughterhouse, transforming it into a centre for creative and hi-tech companies. We will start construction by the middle of 2019.
Q: What is your economic vision for Porto over the next three years of your time as mayor?
A: I think the city is undergoing a very profound transformation in its infrastructure, which will make it a more sustainable city. The new lines of the underground, the investment in parks and the improvement in utilities are bound to have a positive impact on private investment.