There are vast stores of untapped human potential lying dormant in small towns across the world. Sadly, most of it stays like that – undiscovered and unexplored. The reality is that it is exceedingly difficult for these towns to attract investment and new business, and this frequently signals their slow dissolution. San Antonio in Chile, a small port town with a population of less than 100,000, however, is tapping into these valuable vaults and is growing stronger than ever before.
With a port rearing to become one of the major ports in Latin America, and the construction of the only refrigerated container factory outside of China and the first in Latin America, San Antonio is stepping firmly into the future. Constructed and operated by Maersk Container Industry (MCI) the factory is one of the first manufacturing plants in the region. Still, with a workforce more experienced in the export of raw materials and fruit, an entirely new skilled labour pool had to be created.
The Ministry of Labour initiated a training and employment programme executed by partners allowing interested San Antonians to obtain a technical or professional education, thereby creating the workers needed for the MCI plant and other companies in the region. Many of them seized the opportunity. As the largest direct employer in the area, the MCI plant sustains over a thousand people, with a goal of reaching two thousand workers in the future. For a town with one of the biggest unemployment rates in the region, that is a massive step up.
Yet, for most the road isn’t easy. It takes determination and lots of hard work. Single mom, Gloria Diaz, first had to wrap her head around the idea of moving from administrative work to doing something technical. She then started her journey to become a master welder. As the sole provider for her mother and son, working during the day and studying at night was a big sacrifice, yet one she completed with flying colours. She has just been promoted from basic to intermediate welder and her family is extremely proud of her.
Refreshingly, about twenty percent of the plant’s employees are women; sixty percent of those previously unemployed. Production Manager José Cayon says that due to their conviction, tenacity and will to improve, women are now among the best employees on his line.
Owning a factory run by skilled and committed employees is certainly good for MCI’s business. Equally important is MCI’s commitment to inclusive growth, resulting in a win-win scenario for all players on the value chain – from the fruit growers, local society, the country, and of course for Maersk. Through this partnership between MCI and the town of San Antonio, the stage has been set for dedicated and driven people to succeed, realising the full potential of their town and, most importantly, themselves.