Part One: Introduction

Dagupan City: from the Philippines’ Bangus Capital to a Major IT-BPM Player

Past accomplishments and present potentials. Dagupan, long regarded as the Philippines’ leading aquaculture industry and the prime producer and exporter of the popular milkfish, is on its way to establishing itself as a major player in another sector: the IT-BPM (business process management) industry. Several factors contribute to the steady development that is leading towards this inevitable launch: the City’s strategic location in Northern Luzon; the hubs of trade it has cultivated for decades especially since the expansion of local government support in 1968; the presence of prestigious educational institutions; and an abundant pool of talent recognized for their skills, solid work ethic, resilience, and capacity to adapt to the most challenging work environments. Investors and multinationals from other countries, many of whom have set up shop in the archipelago, have begun to set their sights on Dagupan City as a preferred destination of the offices they will set up in the next few years.

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Dagupan’s promise as an IT-BPM location was confirmed last year when the Department of Science and Technology-Information and Communications Technology Office (DOST-ICTO; now the Department of Information Communications Technology or DICT), the IT and Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP), and Leechiu Property Consultants (LPC) named it among the Next Wave Cities of 2015.

In the not too distant future, businessmen, investors, tourists, and the thousands of hardworking citizens of Dagupan as well as their families will see the rise of techno-hubs in their City, right alongside or near the ports, markets, and fisheries that perennially power its bustling bangus trade.

The birth of industries. The City of Dagupan is situated in the northern part of the province of Pangasinan, and it is approximately 200 kilometers north of Metro Manila. Dagupan’s long history of marine trade, which flourished primarily because of the seas and rivers that flow into it, has made unnecessary the characteristic

long introductions to investors, entrepreneurs, and business people. The thriving multi-million-peso milkfish industry, which has captured staunch markets in countries like the U.S., has garnered Dagupan global recognition, with its name instantly creating positive images of a resourceful people who have learned to tap into and convert their surrounding natural resources into sustainable business opportunities.

The steady influx of tourists, a quietly growing community of expatriates and retirees, and ultimately the rise of a younger population with spending money have seen the emergence of recreational and leisure centers that have added a touch of comfortable and convenient urbanity to the City. Some of these centers include theBonuan Beach, the Bonuan Golf Course, the Bonuan Firing Range, the Ciuded El Mina Fishing Village. CSI City Mall, the CSI Market Square, the CSI Stadia, the Leisure Coast Resort, and the Nepo Mall.

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While building on its strength in fisheries, the City has also extended its reach to nurture as well as host other business sectors that have grown and are now booming, including construction, banking and finance; health; food; manning agencies; and of course, call center and business outsourcing. Some of the companies that have set up shop in Dagupan include: Champion Employment Agency; DRB Sales, Inc.; Kenwood Hauler and Construction; Magic Group of Companies; Option Plus, Inc.; Farms Food Corporation;Pandayan Bookshop, Inc.; RPR Promotions; San Vicente Dressing Plant; S & F Finance Corp.; S-P Madrid; and Watsons.

Outsourcing has also become a sector to contend with, with the following locators setting up shop in Dagupan: Akamai Call Center; Dynamic Concepts BPO; ETS PH Communications; Farmout; Intersys Call Center; Kirtan Communications; L.A. Daroya Business Services; Linked Outsourcing Services; Network and Internet Solutions; and PIXELHUB and R’Liem Communication Services. All these have transformed Dagupan into one of the major commercial and financial centers north of the National Capital Region.

What makes the City of Dagupan attractive to employers and investors, especially IT-BPM companies, is its abundance of skilled talent, which was previously mentioned before. It has been considered as the center of education in the Ilocos Region, given its roster of 14 colleges, 18 vocational schools, three technical centers, 19 secondary schools, and 53 elementary schools. These educational institutions are a mixture of public schools and the private academe. DOST-ICTO Executive Monchito Ibrahim cited the skilled, educated workforce of Dagupan and the entry of thousands of fresh graduates into the labor market as among the reasons why it was cited as a Next-Wave City.

 

Opportunities and creating an atmosphere for business. Obviously, this gold mine of a talent pool is one of the reasons that can fuel the acceleration of the IT-BPM industry in Dagupan City. These professionals and the new graduates alike will search for other sources of employment where they can also show theircapabilities while creating a career path, outside the aquaculture and fisheries industries.

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In a job fair held June of this year (2016), employers and hiring companies named the following among the most critical jobs that needed to be filled: teachers, call center representatives, production operators, accountants and accounting staff, operating personnel, and technicians. Overseas manning agencies were on the lookout for nurses and other medical professionals, construction workers and managers, farmers and agriculturists, and service industries practitioners, ranging from crew, support, sales, to (again) customer service.

The skills that these sought-for professionals’ exhibit are also among those prized by IT-BPM companies that specialize in back-office services. While call center representatives can man the voice-run hubs, the teachers, accountants, engineers, technicians, and medical transcriptionists can provide expert services for clients in the U.S., Europe, and Australia who outsource projects involving engineering, science, health care, architecture, construction, translation, communications, finance, and accounting to Philippine contact centers.

Dagupan as a recruitment hub for prized accountants, who are getting hard to find, was thrust into the spotlight when one of its own, Ralley Soriano Paragas of Colegio de Dagupan (for. Computronix College), topped the Certified Public Accountant Board Exam in 2015 with a 92.86 percent grade.

Another opportunity in the IT-BPM realm that the City of Dagupan and her public servants can take advantage of and maximize is the fact that many international locators are looking for other investment destinations outside of Metro Manila. The horrific traffic situation that can paralyze the National Capital Region for hours on end, the increase in rates in property and utilities, the intense competition among the IT-BPM companies to corner a Manila-centric talent pool, and sheer population congestion are compelling these companies to look for other viable alternatives. On their wish list are an ever-present supply of talent, potential for growth, reasonable costs in doing business, government support down to the local level, the presence of infrastructure that can sustain and support business continuity, and perhaps just room to breathe. And regardless of their own reservations about putting up yet another office in Manila, locators still prefer destinations that are near to it, for business reasons like the need to liaise with the home office and government institutions located in the NCR.

Dagupan fulfills almost all of these requirements, especially the availability of job candidates, the room for business growth, low costs in setting up shop (compared to Manila), the short four-hour travel time to Manila, and supportive local government officials. Its Next-Wave-City status is also a bona fide industry-wide recognition that can and will catch the attention of investors and locators. The success of the IT-BPM companies cited above also shows precedent and an industry track record.

 

Measuring the challenges: Methodology in Assessing Dagupan City’s Capability in IT-enabled Services. At the same time, there are challenges that the City of Dagupan and its leaders, public and private, must address if they are to meet this opportunity, maximize its potentials, and capture their place in the sun as a premiere IT-BPM destination. In the wish list that IT-BPM locators create for the destinations that they are considering, a competent IT infrastructure that can sustain services and provide business continuity, even in the most adverse conditions, is paramount and non-negotiable. The City must determine if the following business components, critical to success and sustainability in the 21st century, are present in the area—and to what extent: 24/7 high-speed internet connectivity, telecommunications and its accompanying cell

structures, mobile capabilities both for employment and e-commerce; power with back-up generators during calamities and other crises; water and other utilities; a functioning traffic system that corresponds to a cohesive, orderly traffic grid; and IT hardware and software solutions that can be obtained immediately and cost-effectively.

Growing hubs will also require extensive land areas where infrastructure is already available or can be easily built. Energy, food, and transportation must always be in great supply. Rules for zoning areas and security parameters must be existing and enforced. Finally, local government incentives must help these locators do business in Dagupan City by reducing their related costs while providing support that can help them boost it.

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Compos Mentis Inc.
Created for the Dagupan ICT Council, Dagupan, Pangasinan
All Rights Reserved 2016