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Portugal Attracts Canadian Construction Firms

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 16 July 2002 00:00

In business, consumer demand equals business opportunity. Strangely, the large and growing demand for "affordable housing" in Canada is not seen as a business opportunity. The irony is that while Canadians and their companies appear to ignore demand at home, they see business potential in solving this housing dilemma in countries far away.

Portugal, a European Union nation, has become one of the most expensive European countries in which to buy a family home or apartment as prices of land and homes continue to rise.

Since residential housing accounts for 27% of sales in Portugal's construction industry, compared with an average of 22% in the rest of Europe, home building makes an important contribution to the country's overall economy. The link to a growing need for modern transportation systems also fuels the economy. Approximately C$5.6 billion will be spent on major transportation projects including The Oporto surface metro and a high-speed train that will connect with the EU railroad lines. Last year, $2 billion in private funding financed infrastructure projects such as new motorway concessions.

Portugal’s urgent need for affordable housing presents opportunities for Canadian companies with expertise in pre-engineered homes. Canadian prefabricated wood-frame housing is attracting more interest because it lowers costs and cuts construction time.

To demonstrate the advantage of Canadian housing to Portuguese consumers, the Canadian Embassy recently organized two seminars in Lisbon and Oporto to promote wood-frame housing. The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade reports Canadian companies received several leads from a number of local developers as a result of these meetings.

Local Portugese construction firms tend to be wary of new technologies, hence the majority of Portuguese houses are traditionally not insulated and lack central heating. Increasingly, Portuguese consumers are insisting on homes that are well-constructed and comfortable and the demand for new technologies is growing.

This emerging consumer demand creates significant opportunities for Canadian companies that manufacture prefabricated wood-frame housing systems, concrete-based wall systems, steel-frame construction, insulation, insulated windows and Portuguese-style roofing and siding materials.

The expensive, time-consuming approval process for new construction methods demands Canadian companies persevere if they want to do business in Portugal. Spain and other EU countries are in competition with Canada for this growing housing market.

Since 1998, Portugal's construction sector has grown at an average rate of 5.6%, which, compared with 0.6% for the rest of the European Union, makes it one of Europe's fastest growing construction markets. Many factors, including low interest rates, major public works projects, government housing subsidies, low vacancy rates and a climate of economic confidence, fuel the industry's growth -- offering opportunities for Canadian business at the same time.

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PJ Wade

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