Small businesses are the fuel that drives developing neighborhoods and in one of Panama’s most promising districts, Casco Viejo, the difficulty of young businesses and young professionals to comfortably get on their feet is a serious impediment to healthy progress.
Recently the cleanup of the Terreplen waterfront region was announced, a huge milestone for economic growth of Panama City’s historic district. The district’s currently-uninhabited plazas are also starting to see major activity with rising real estate prices spreading value-seekers further and further from the tip of the peninsula. 2007/2008 as a whole saw perhaps more construction work than ever before in Casco Viejo.
However, through all of this there have been relatively few businesses that have opened up in the Casco. It’s very difficult to put a finger on just why this is. However, here are several ideas:
1. Few Small Business Incentives: Government sponsored discounted commercial loans should be suggested as banks wouldn’t offer these on their own. These would financially encourage entrepreneurs to make the leap and call a piece of Casco Viejo their own.
2. Rents Are Too High: Granted, we here at Los Cuatro Tulipanes have impacted this factor by appealing to high-end clientele and asking high prices. But in general, the asking price for commercial and residential space is extremely high and many small business owners simply cannot afford.
3. Lack of Usable Office Space: The pure number of available offices in Casco Viejo is low. Renovations will increase this number over time, but the currently lack of supply feeds the rising prices.
4. Concerns Over Crime: There are still crime issues here and there, especially on the outskirts, and while we (nor our guests) don’t feel uncomfortable by any means, outsiders are sometimes hesitant to open up shop.
5. Lack of Foot Traffic: Tourism is still in its infancy in Panama, much less in Casco Viejo. Busloads of tourists are one thing, but a consistent flow of tourists and consumers in general would provide a more stable market for small business owners in retail, entertainment, food, tourism…etc.