October 24th, 2006 12:05 EST
U.S. Companies Boosting Economies in Latin America, Caribbean
Washington -- In Ecuador, 3M, a U.S.-based technology and chemicals company, has provided field training to a combined total of more than 30,000 health care technicians in the safe handling of infectious materials, in industrial health topics such as respiration and hearing, and in dentistry.
In Chile, U.S. computer software company Microsoft has opened 12 centers that have trained more than 120,000 people in the use of information and communication technologies.
In Costa Rica, Procter and Gamble Company has built a school for visually impaired children. The U.S. company, which makes household products, also has started an "Eliminating Barriers" program that gives physically challenged children equal access to education.
By investing in communities throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, U.S. companies are making major contributions to boosting free enterprise and social development in the region, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. These private-sector contributions are being highlighted through a new effort of the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Association of American Chambers of Commerce in Latin America (AACCLA).
"We have a good message to deliver," Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said announcing the joint promotional effort earlier in October in Washington.
In early 2005, AACCLA began to gather data on companies' investments in Latin America. It then submitted the information to Commerce.
AACCLA reports that through donations of money, materials, training and employee time, U.S. companies are working with the private sector, nongovernmental organizations and communities in 14 Latin American countries to improve infrastructure, provide education and health care, and create good jobs.
"U.S. companies are making an indispensable contribution to economic growth in the region," said Kathleen Barclay, who chairs the AACCLA board of directors.
"It is these kinds of private and public partnerships that effectively tell the story of how U.S. investment is having a material impact on [gross domestic product], employment and corporate citizenship programs in the communities in which they operate," said Richard Diego, an AACCLA board member.
"U.S. companies have some of the best employment practices in the world and are often ranked among the best employers to work for in the region," added Alysia Wilson, a Commerce Department staff member who worked on the project.
Companies range from providers of technology, banking and energy services, to those that produce food and household products. Most have made philanthropic investments in several countries in the region, according to AACCLA.
In Guatemala, Citigroup, a financial services company, has joined with the nonprofit volunteer-based educational organization Junior Achievement to teach young students how the banking system works.
Kraft Foods is supporting small, community-run grocery stores in economically depressed areas in Venezuela that have little access to basic food. Participants in the Popular Markets program receive a year of training in cost-efficient ordering of stock from suppliers and effective handling of products in stores until sale. So far, 100,000 people have benefited directly from Kraft's investment.
Personal-care product maker Avon is supporting cancer testing and treatment projects, schools, children’s hospitals and hospices in El Salvador. It also is demonstrating its commitment to women through a program that recognizes women whose humanitarian organizations make significant contributions to their communities.
Other Latin American and Caribbean countries where U.S. companies are contributing to communities are Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Peru Paraguay, and Trinidad and Tobago.
Additional information about the standards of corporate good governance program is available on the Commerce Department’s Web site.
Fact sheets on U.S. companies’ involvement in Latin American nations will be posted on the Association of American Chambers of Commerce Web site and on the Web sites of individual country American Chamber of Commerce sites, Wilson said.
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)