In Extremadura’s quest to realise its full economic potential, the region in western Spain is offering attractive incentives to investors and companies from around the world. Beyond its strategic location in the centre of the Iberian Peninsula, Extremadura offers some of the best financial support to new businesses in Europe.
Just a stroll through the historic streets of one of the region’s bustling cities is enough to make the effects of the government’s latest push for business and investment apparent. New shops and businesses dot the buzzing streets of Badajoz, Cáceres and Mérida, where locals may be lined up, patiently waiting to sample the new bread shop, wine bar or try out a different look at a designer boutique.
After overcoming the global financial crisis that hit Spain especially hard, Extremadura’s economy is back on track and boasting solid growth and renewal. And to protect and accelerate that growth, the government is betting on investment and innovation by creating ideal conditions in which investors and entrepreneurs from all over the world can thrive.
“We need to be competitive but that cannot only be achieved through low wages. It will come from being the best, which will happen, without a doubt, through an increase in innovation, development and research,” says Guillermo Fernández Vara, President of Extremadura.
And while local entrepreneurship and innovation is a key focus, the government also has its sights set on attracting more foreign investment and businesses to kick-start the economy and help develop the region’s potential.
In 2016, foreign investment in Extremadura increased by 40 percent from the previous year
In 2016, foreign investment in Extremadura increased by 40 percent from the previous year to 62 million euros. This represents one of the biggest increases in Spain, which now boasts one of the Eurozone’s fastest growing economies with GDP expanding 3.3 percent in 2016.
Extremadura offers a variety of advantages for international investors. Strategically located between the cities of Madrid, Seville and Lisbon, it has access to 16.5 million consumers within a 400km radius and rapid access to some of Iberia’s largest population centres. Likewise, it is well-situated for global trade, an equal distance from the Spanish and Portuguese ports of Algeciras and Sines.
In 2010, the region’s government created Extremadura Avante, a public company tasked with promoting business growth and investment. Beyond pushing for innovation and for new businesses to set up in Extremadura and its various industrial zones, Avante offers investors and entrepreneurs several options for financing.
“We are always looking for the excellence and innovation that will allow businesses to increase their competitive advantages, lower costs and satisfy the expectations of clients in a global market,” according to Avante.
Through its innovative capital investment programme, Avante supports businesses through temporary (up to seven years) direct and minority participation in up to 49 percent of a company’s stock, both in terms of fixed assets and of capital for the development of a project. Shareholder loans are also available. Avante’s reimbursable loans, designed to be used for investment in the fixed and current assets necessary to develop a business project, is another stimulating investment option.
Extremadura Avante also offers a wide array of locations where entrepreneurs can set up their business. This includes industrial parks and business areas with the logistical capacity that facilitates access to the flow of merchandise in southern Europe and to trade with international markets. Currently, around two million square metres of competitively priced space is for sale.
The benefits of fostering growth in Extremadura have also been identified by the European Union, which has declared the Spanish region as a focus for European Structural and Investment Funds during the period 2014-2020. This means Extremadura has preferential access to investment that can further boost employment and improve economic competitiveness.
Currently, around two million square metres of competitively priced space is for sale”
Extremadura is embracing its natural strengths and comparative advantages for economic gain by making the most of its beautiful and fertile lands, sunny skies, flowing rivers and talented people.
Extremadura has launched a Smart Specialisation Strategy (RIS3) as one way to promote knowledge-based innovation across all levels of the economy. For example, in order to boost sales of Torta del Casar, a prized local cheese, the region created a Shepherding School that teaches highly professional shepherds how to combine their generations-old traditions with ICT and the latest technological advances.
It is undeniable that the region’s agricultural sector has flourished thanks to innovation, both in terms of producing and processing some of the world’s tastiest food. And although Extremadura is increasingly world-renowned among foodies for producing some of the highest-quality products on the market, there is huge scope for this sector to grow through new investment and innovation.
At the same time, Extremadura’s beautiful landscapes, connectivity to Europe and delicious cuisine have facilitated the development of a strong tourism industry. Since 2014, the number of tourists in the region has increased by 20 percent, reaching 1.7 million visitors in 2016. Yet, far from oversaturated, this 41,694km² region offers many opportunities for increased tourism development.
Extremadura produces 9.7 percent of the country’s energy and consumes only 1.7 percent. A national leader in the generation of hydroelectricity and nuclear power, it is also focused on renewable energy production and aims to become a “global reference in the green economy”, in the words of President Fernández Vara.
Likewise, Extremadura is confident of its potential to become a hub in the ICT sector, an area that already represents three percent of the region’s GDP. The government aims to position Extremadura as a global competitor in terms of cloud computing, big data, cybersecurity and networks.
Cutting-edge technology is also being applied to the region’s health sector. Extremadura has all the necessary elements to develop technology that will improve the lives of its citizens and keep public health services sustainable. Besides that, the region’s health infrastructure makes it an ideal place for both local and foreign researchers to test innovative medical techniques and new technology.
To know Extremadura is to taste it. Whether it is a piece of the world’s best ham melting in your mouth, the tart yet sweet burst of flavour from one of the region’s unique cherries, or the sublime pleasure of a well-balanced glass of wine, Extremadura’s pure, fertile land is essential to its world-renowned cuisine and ingredients.
Extremadura’s natural diversity, characterised by idyllic tree-dotted dehesas, flowing fresh water streams and sunny skies is part of what makes it one of Europe’s most exclusive agricultural regions. Extremadura’s balanced sense of tradition is another; here, nature is deeply respected and producers understand that when it comes to food, quality should always reign over quality. And when this is all combined with cutting-edge technology and responsible agro-businesses focused on making healthy and safe food, the region’s government is proud to brand its matchless products with the simple and prestigious brand – “Alimentos de Extremadura” or “Extremadura food” in English.
Many of Extremadura’s tasty products are also recognised as utterly unique by Spanish and European law via the denominación de origen classification system. This means that several of Extremadura’s iconic products, including certain types of ham, wine and cheese, have prestigious denominación de origen titles and cannot be replicated outside of the region under the same name. So whether one is interested in tasting Extremadura’s world-class food in the context of the sunny region or on the other side of the world, quality is equally guaranteed.
Extremadura is the top producer of jamón ibérico de bellota, the Rolex of ham, derived from black Iberian pigs who live happily, roaming freely through the region’s oak-tree-spotted savannah land (dehesas), feeding on fallen acorns. It also produces, enjoys and exports similarly delicious Iberian hams under the protected denominación de origin ‘Dehesa de Extremadura’. With the pork industry making up approximately 20 percent of the region’s agricultural output, Extremadura is also known for its quality preserved sausages, such as chorizo and salchichón.
While Extremadura may not get as much publicity as other Spanish wine-producing areas, such as La Rioja, this doesn’t mean the region isn’t making some of the country’s best wines. In fact, wines from Extremadura frequently place among Spain’s most well-balanced and with 90,000 hectares of vineyards, the region is actually the second biggest producer of wine in Spain, growing, picking, processing, fermenting and ageing 4.4 million hectolitres each year. The wines from Ribera del Guadiana have denomination de origin status. Extremadura also produces at least 50 different kinds of liquor, including an exquisite one made from bellotas – the same acorns that feed the Iberian pigs.
The tradition of cheese in Extremadura runs so deep that in the Middle Ages cheese was used as a source of currency throughout the region. Curiously, one of Extremadura’s most iconic and wildly delicious cheeses, ‘Torta del Casar’, is even product of chance, and its creamy texture was discovered when milk was accidentally mixed with wild thistle. But today it is one of the world’s most beloved and exclusive cheese, and, along with ‘Torta de la Serena’ and ‘Queso Ibores’, it is protected under denomination de origin.
Although Extremadura has only a little more than one million inhabitants, it is responsible for 1.4 percent of the world’s supply of olive oil. And the extra-virgin, heart-healthy oil from Extremadura has peculiar and distinct qualities, depending on the variety of the olive and where it was produced. But the entire production is defined by stability and purity. There are two distinguished regions for olive oil production in Extremadura protected by law: ‘Aceite Monterrubio’ from Badajoz and ‘Gata Hurdes’ in the region’s northern mountains.
While Extremadura may be most famous for its ham, this doesn’t diminish the quality of the region’s other carnivorous delights. Indeed, the region produces unique veal from autochthonous bovine breeds, the best of which is recognized under the prestigious ‘Veal of Extremadura’ label. With approximately four sheep for every person, around 50 percent of Spain’s lambs are found in Extremadura. And Extremaduran lamb meat is sold under the protective label ‘Corderex’, giving consumers an additional guarantee that the meat contains just the right amount of fat.
The pepper came from America in 1493 as a gift to the Catholic Monarchs. But it was the monks in the beautiful Monastery of Yuste who popularised its cultivation throughout the 16th century in the region of Extremadura known as La Vera. And through a unique and laborious process, they used the peppers to make ‘Pimentón de la Vera’, arguably Spain’s best paprika. Also protected by denomination de origin, the spice’s excellent-quality pepper base and smoky intensity make it a prize ingredient for chefs throughout Spain and around the world.
Eating healthy is not hard to do in Extremadura, with delicious fruit and vegetables that retain the same rich flavours as they have for generations. The region is Spain’s top producer of pitted fruits and second-largest pear producer. But perhaps the most iconic Extremaduran fruit is the cherry from the beautiful Jerte valley, native to the region and also protected by denomination de origin. Extremadura’s excellent growing conditions also make it a leader in the production of tomatoes, broccoli, zucchini, figs, olives, peppers and even rice. In fact, Extremadura is the top European producer of tomatoes, with a yearly harvest of 1.3 million tonnes. Naturally, the region also boasts delicious preserves, such as carefully canned vegetables and organic marmalade.