Cerro Negro Ignites the Entrepreneurial Spirit in Perito Moreno

Apr 3, 2019 7:00 AM ET

In this series, we introduce you to the winners of Goldcorp’s Global Excellence Awards 2019.  The Awards were launched in 2014 and are held every year to celebrate excellence and recognize achievements and successes made by individuals and teams across our organization who are thinking innovatively, finding ways to improve our business and supporting our vision of Together, Creating Sustainable Value.

One of Goldcorp’s core objectives is to leave a positive environmental, social and economic legacy in its operating areas post-mining. At Cerro Negro, an entrepreneurship program created to help expand and diversify Perito Moreno’s economy spawned a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem earning the Cerro Negro’s team a Global Excellence Award for Sustainability Stewardship.

Perito Moreno, located in the middle of the Argentinian Patagonia, has always had a strong dependency on government for family revenue, employment, education, health, housing and land ownership. There’s also a strong reliance on Cerro Negro to support the local economy.

“We wanted to ensure Perito Moreno continues to thrive when Cerro Negro ends its operations and closes,” explained Alejandra del Rio, Sustainability Project Manager. “We wanted to encourage people to develop their own way of generating a family income, diversify the goods and services available, and help create new jobs.”

As part of its CSR strategy, the Cerro Negro team developed a pilot program in 2017 to better understand the social landscape in Perito Moreno. A Social Baseline Study was conducted to gather information and evaluate the current state of the community such as population, health, employment, living conditions, etc.  “One of the findings was that there was an incipient entrepreneurial community, which we took as an opportunity to boost and create an entrepreneurial ecosystem in town,” stated del Rio.

Del Rio and Evangelina Villacorta, Chief of Management Control, developed a seed capital contest to encourage entrepreneurs to submit promising projects in need of funding. Promotional posters were distributed in Perito Moreno to publicize the program’s launch event.  The team prepared to host between 30-40 entrepreneurs, but more than 100 people attended the initial launch.

Twenty-three applications for funding and eight entrepreneurs were awarded seed capital that year totalling USD $70,000 to advance their businesses ventures.  Projects ranged from nursing and food services, a plant nursery, and beer brewing to pork and poultry breeding, sewing and confections services to a brick factory.

The entrepreneurship program was expanded in 2018 to include workshops and mentoring for aspiring business owners and a website developed to facilitate online funding applications, with support provided by Cerro Negro employees from the sustainability, management control and communications departments.

Seven different workshops were held twice a week over a seven-week period providing theoretical and practical information for emerging business owners on motivation, accounting and financing, marketing and communications, leadership and team building.  For the theoretical sessions, different trainers were brought in from Buenos Aires, who also trained a local instructor to conduct the practical workshops.

Entrepreneurs participating in the workshops were invited to submit proposals for project funding through the website.  Six representatives from Njambre, a social enterprise incubator in Buenos Aires, and Socialab, an international business incubator, evaluated the 79 applications received, grading them on feasibility, business model sustainability, development and entrepreneurial attitude.  Twenty-one entrepreneurs were selected for an interview. Of those, 15 projects were presented to the 5-member selection committee comprised representatives from Goldcorp, local government, Njambre and Socialab.

Ten entrepreneurs were awarded seed capital in 2018 for various ventures such as a fitness training centre, spa and alternative therapies, rehabilitation therapy for people with special needs, a health food shop, children’s entertainment services and a walking tour of Perito Moreno, among other initiatives.

“We’ve received a lot of positive feedback from the community on how residents have benefited from the wider availability of goods and services in Perito Moreno as a result of this program,” stated del Rio. Providing entrepreneurs with the knowledge, skills and funding need to advance their businesses have helped diversify the local economy sowing the seeds for a more sustainable community. The program has also been a tremendous personal and professional development process for the Cerro Negro team by expanding knowledge, capabilities and skills among mine employees and instilling a sense of pride and personal satisfaction.

“For those employees who live in Perito Moreno, the diversity of products and services offered have really improved their quality of life,” noted del Rio. “As a Perito Moreno citizen myself, I train with Fortius Fitness and Aiken, get massages and reiki therapy at Quetzal and buy healthy products at Vida Sana.  And I would say half my class at Fortius are Cerro Negro employees.”