Argentina’s robust software and IT sector can help fill the growing tech skills gap in the United States, and firms from the South American nation are eyeing Atlanta as a potential beachhead into the market.
“The U.S. market faces a competitive talent crunch in the areas of finance, business services, technology, media, telecommunications and manufacturing,” said Argentine Ambassador Jorge Argüello in Atlanta, noting that the shortage across all fields is projected at 6 million workers next year.
The country of 40 million-plus has long positioned itself as a cost-effective “nearshoring” destination boasting cultural affinity with the U.S., a convenient time zone and a highly developed pool of STEM-trained professionals. It’s now ramping up those efforts and looking at Atlanta’s exploding tech sector as a key recruiting ground for buyers of its services.
Argüello helped lead a delegation of 19 companies to Miami and Atlanta last week, unveiling the “Argentina Delivers” initiative showcasing new incentives for investors in Argentina’s tech sector and ways of better pairing U.S. firms with Argentine providers.
During a “Malbec and Networking” reception at the Metro Atlanta Chamber, the ambassador debuted a digital directory that allows U.S. firms to search among 980 Argentine companies.
“In the public imagination Argentina is related to the export of grain or beef, but we are exporting tech, and we are doing an amazing work,” the ambassador told Global Atlanta in an interview. Argentina boasts 11 unicorns and has a carved out a niche in satellites and space.
Argentina’s economy faces headwinds which could be lending some urgency to the export push. Since Peronist President Alberto Fernandez took power in 2019, the country has been negotiating with the International Monetary Fund to find a path forward toward paying down $57 billion facility taken out by the prior government in 2018 as foreign exchange reserves dwindled. Some $40 billion is still owed, and the effort has been complicated by rising energy prices and inflation topping 80 percent in September.
Argentina is accustomed to high inflation, Argüello said, and the macroeconomic factors — including rising prices in the U.S. — are working in favor of Argentine exporters of services to higher-cost markets. Already, “knowledge-based services” make up 10 percent of Argentina’s GDP.
“Our export capacity is stable, it’s growing, and the economic difficulties we are going through in the domestic sphere at the end of the day are helping the competitiveness of these Argentinian companies,” Argüello said.
Some of those companies met with Atlanta success stories like Mailchimp during the trade mission, where they heard about not only homegrown firms but recent arrivals of tech giants like Microsoft and Google, which are investing big in the city.
Learning that the companies were to visit the Coda Building at Georgia Tech the following day, Technology Association of Georgia President and CEO Larry Williams played up the blend of private companies and public research that is happening in Midtown’s Tech Square area.
“There are global 1000 companies with research, innovation and technology development that put offices right in that area to be connected to both research that’s coming out but also the professors and the students,” Williams said.
He also pointed to Atlanta’s strengths in fintech — from the 70 percent of debit and credit card transactions processed here to the lesser-known 80 percent of commercial cryptocurrency transactions. He also highlighted the association’s annual Fintech South conference, which has featured South American tech firms including Argentina unicorn Uala.
Argentine Consul General in Atlanta Juan Manuel Navarro said all this adds up to a hospitable and open business environment that has encouraged multiple tech delegations to the city.
“We are betting on Atlanta,” he said. “It’s business-oriented, and we can speak that language.”
Vanessa Ibarra, the director of the Mayor’s Office of International and Immigrant Affairs, encouraged the companies involved in the trade mission to bypass the well-worn route that many Latin American companies take into the U.S. through Miami.
“I can tell you that Miami cannot hold a candle to what Atlanta is doing and what we’re building together,” Ibarra said in brief remarks.
Many of the Argentine firms are looking into Georgia Tech’s Soft Landings program, which is designed to help foreign firms explore whether at U.S. presence is right for them and learn how to go after potential customers.
Those interested in learning more about the participating companies and the trade mission can read more here.