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Medellin Colombia Travels

Recently I had the privilege to provide Solar Eclipse ERP training from in two Latin American countries. Lehman Pipe , a mechanical fitting distributor based in Miami FL, USA, opened locations in Medellin Colombia and Santo Domingo Dominican Republic. To date, the highlight of my professional career was spending a week in each location, training the employees, and learning about business and life from my South American brothers and sisters. Lehman is a progressive distributor with a talented executive team. I was beginning to lose faith in distribution util I met the Vice Presidents from A great team who employs forward thinking employees along with Latin American partners and suppliers.

This blog is about Colombia. Rule #1 - Don’t mention you know who! I read this online and found it true. One day my American contact from Miami pointed to a mountain side and said, “That’s where you know who operated his cartel.” Immediately, one of our young Colombian translators mumbled under his breath, “Why did you have to mention him?” Colombian’s are very embarrassed about you know who and don’t like to discuss that particular chapter of their recent history. Oh yea, don't try to buy drugs. Very bad idea.

Traffic is crazy in Medellin. The 2.5 million residents are only allowed to drive during rush hour on even or odd days depending on a license plate digit. Fines are very stiff however the upper class beats the system by owning multiple vehicles so it doesn't help much. My new friends told me Bogota is worse with over 7 million residents. We drove our rental down the fifteen thousand-foot surrounding Andes mountains daily to the heart of the city which is at around five thousand feet on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. You may be interested to know that Uber worked and was alive and well on Tuesdays and Thursday. The winding mountain roads are jam packed with cars, scooters, and motorcycles.

Nicknamed the “City of Eternal Spring” for its temperate weather. Medellin averages year round temperatures of 78 daily and 62 nightly. The city hosts a famous annual Flower Festival and is becoming a favorite retirement destination for many. Modern transportation links the city to surrounding villages and offer views of the Aburrá Valley below. We worked and stayed in El Pobablo. The traveler neighborhood in Medellin, El Poblado is easily the most popular part of town for foreigners in the city due to the large number of hostels, bars, nightclubs, and restaurants. Out-of-townees particularly love the area around Parque Lleras; it can get pretty rowdy on weekends, but I didn’t see anything of the sort. El Poblado boasts some of the best food and drink in the city, not to mention the young and vibrant crowd It’s a great spot to visit and my hosts always treated me as a guest. They had my back at all times always suggested local Colombian cuisine. My only faux pas was mistaking a serving of chick pea based green wasabi as guacamole. My hosts are still laughing at my watering eyes and super super super clear sinus.

As a distributor and businessman, it was interesting to see the amount of South American manufactured Chevrolet's in Colombia. Chevy owns the Colombian market. They own it with the Onix Sedan in Colombia. It seemed like every other car was a Chevy Onix. Colombia has a 19% sales tax and their currency is the Colombian Peso. The market is flooded with low priced Chinese products and US manufactured products are sold at a premium because of a strong dollar that causes a 30% price adder. US companies who have plants in Mexico or other Latin countries do have shelf space but are still priced at premium levels. Colombia, like many Latin American countries require citizens to have 51% ownership in business. This makes it difficult for outsiders to invest.

I met a new friend from Venezuela. This person is just a few months short of having the required 5 years of residency in Bogota Colombia thus eligible for citizenship. We traveled together to Dominican Republic and this person was hassled by immigration and customs. When I asked, “Why”, my friend said, “Because I’m from Venezuela.” My friend's beloved country has completely collapsed because of Hugo Rafael Chávez and his replacement since 2013, Nicolás Maduro Moros. These guys have nationalized the economy and caused a total collapse. Venezuelans are fleeing in record numbers and are highly discriminated everywhere in Latin America. My friend's words not mine, “Moros is now trading oil for beans” …. Heavy crude that can only be refined in a few markets, like the United States who was the first to be kicked out by Chavez.…. My new friend talked endlessly about her family and home. I hope God will allow my friend to return someday to better conditions.... Kelbob out…

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