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New Xylem office supports Panama growth

In response to rapid growth in Panama, Xylem will open a new sales and service office to provide even better customer service to the developing Latin American market. The company’s Flygt and Godwin pumps are already being used for the Panama Canal expansion project.

Simoni Dobrowolski, Managing Director for the new office, explains that Panama is a very unique market. 

“Although it’s a small country with only four-plus million people, Panama has immense growth potential,” Dobrowolski says. “This new office gives us the advantage of providing local service and being close to the people who need our solutions. Our customers don’t just want to buy a pump anymore. They want to buy a complete solution from the expert. We provide solutions that fulfill many needs, from ease-of-use to reducing energy footprints.”

Xylem has operated a small functional entity in Panama since January 2011, and both the sales and service department are set to begin expanding within a few months.

Panama’s best-known current project is the first expansion in the century-long history of the Panama Canal, announced last year. Pumps from Xylem’s Flygt and Godwin brands have already been used in dredging and construction for the US$5.25 billion project, which is slated for completion in 2014.

“We have been working with the Panama Canal Authority for several years,” Dobrowolski says.

Strong growth in mining industry 

While Xylem solutions are utilized in the expansion project and everyday canal operation, mining industry expenditures will exceed canal investment in the years ahead.

“It rains virtually every other day in Panama, so dewatering in the mines will be a very strong portion of our business,” Dobrowolski says.

Panama is home to two of the world’s largest undeveloped copper deposits, including the US$6 billion Cobre Panama project. Minera Panama, a subsidiary of Inmet Mining, is currently preparing to start construction on the project, with shipment of the first concentrate planned for 2016.

The Cerro Petaquilla mining district close to the Caribbean coast includes at least eight separate deposits and ranks as the world’s third largest copper and gold ore complex.

Dobrowolski estimates that in the future, mining could account for as much as 40 percent of Xylem’s business in Panama.

Cruise ships and baby boomers

“In addition to the canal and mining there are cruise ships and other vessels, plus dry docks for repairs, that all need pumps,” Dobrowolski says. “There are many commercial and residential opportunities, too. Baby boomers are moving here from the U.S. to retire and new hotels and other buildings are being built. A lot of water treatment follows that growth.”

To better meet the treatment needs of the population, the Juan Diaz Wastewater Treatment Plant was recently built in Panama City. Xylem worked with Odebrecht and Degrémont, responsible for constructing the plant, in order to improve the quality of discharge water and the current conditions of Panama Bay.

Other infrastructure improvements in the country, including hydroelectric projects, will also rely on Xylem’s solutions.

“A lot of people need our goods and services, so we’ve established a local office where the customers need us,” says Dobrowolski. “We want to be part of Panama’s growth. We want to be here for the long haul.”

by Eric Gourley