Panama: Can You Dig It?

By April 30, 2007Trade

The Houston Chronicle profiles the business opportunities offered by the $5.5 billion expansion of the Panama Canal. Bids on the project will be opened in May.

More than 600 people from 222 companies hailing from 31 nations attended a March conference in Panama to learn what contracts will be up for bids for this big dig. And officials from at least a half-dozen Houston companies were among the attendees.

“Any major company out there that deals with this is going to be involved because it’s a huge project,” said Armando Deschamps, business development specialist of Houston-based Innovative Hydraulic Designs. “There’s a lot of money in this.”

His company is interested in providing hydraulics for the canal’s new set of locks. Deschamps and a Colombian co-worker attended the conference, touring the canal and meeting with potential partners interested in bidding for the project.

Jim Wiehage, district manager of piling sales for the Houston office of Pittsburgh-based LB Foster Co., also listened to the presentations. He visits Panama several times a year for other business.

“We’re a supplier of steel, and there’s going to be massive amounts of steel in this project,” he said.

U.S. business prospects in Panama — investments that would create good jobs back here in the United States — would be dramatically improved if Congress were to enact the U.S.-Panama Free Trade Agreement.