By: CECÍLIA PIRES
ALMANCIL BUSINESS Association’s new president believes that the local business community and political authorities must work together more closely to ensure that the parish, which includes several of the most famous resorts in the Algarve, like Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo, achieves the level of progress it requires and deserves.
Francisco de Sousa Neto is an agricultural engineer who loves what he does and who has been connected to Almancil since he started working in the early seventies at Quinta do Lago, where he helped with the construction of many of the local golf courses.
He now owns an Almancil-based company specialising in gardening, golf course and football pitch planning and construction, and which operates in Portugal and internationally.
His long professional connection with the expansion of Almancil explains why he is among the original group of members of the Associação Empresarial de Almancil (AEA), the Almancil business association. After being the AEA’s vice-president from day one, he took office as president in January.
“This all started 10 years ago with a group of business people unhappy with the underdevelopment of the Almancil parish,” he told The Resident. “By then we already had the best resorts in the region within the parish borders and already had 1,000 companies based here.”
The group would get together over lunch and discuss common problems, especially the difficulties they faced within Loulé Câmara for routine licensing procedures.
After a few months, those lunches led to the creation of an organised association and the AEA was officially created on October 20, 1998, representing companies that were based in Almancil.
Today, the association has a membership of 287 companies from the 1,300 registered in the parish, from all areas of business, although restaurants now make up the largest single sector. Included are a number of foreign investors who chose to establish their businesses in the area and the numbers are growing.
“They realise we are doing a very good job of defending the region’s brands and products and have a high quality image,” said Francisco de Sousa Neto.
In order to keep members’ needs updated and to establish contacts with the regional authorities, the association continues to hold the lunch debates now every two weeks.
“In these meetings we always invite people we believe may help clarify any member’s doubts. This week, for instance, we had a lunch with the vice-president of Comissão de Coordenação e Desenvolvimento Regional (CCDR-Algarve), the region’s development authority, who explained some aspects of the Quadro de Referência Estratégica Nacional (QREN), the national strategic document to administer EU funds, which we thought would be of interest to our members,” he said.
The creation of the Zona Empresarial de Almancil (ZEA), a business park for local companies, is among the priorities of the AEA’s action plan, due to be implemented by 2010.
The project is an old dream of local entrepreneurs and is already approved by Loulé Câmara, which included an area in the council’s PDM, the document that defines the urban development of Loulé.
Improved public safety is another priority. “We have called for a new headquarters for the local GNR and more police agents,” said Francisco de Sousa Neto. “The Câmara has provided the land and the Internal Affairs Ministry also gave its ok to the idea but, unfortunately, that is the only thing they have done to date.”
Later this month, the association will be at the Algarve Convida exhibition in Porto (see ‘Tourism fair’ on page 6). The AEA stand will be promoting its members and the Almancil quality brand.
To find out more about AEA, please visit http://www.aea.pt/. The website is available in English.
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