Santa Maria da Feira, a municipality on the outskirts of Oporto, in northern Portugal, is adapting to the reality of cultural diversity in a surprising way. Spurred by the municipality, the local business community is exploring new opportunities presented by migration: The presence of people from different origins in its territory, and the presence of Feirenses in a number of foreign countries.
The municipality is planning the launch of an online platform that will link local business owners of all backgrounds with the Portuguese diaspora and with the countries of origin of local immigrants. The launch of this platform is the culmination of a number of initiatives that reach out through business partnerships.
The municipality has regular business exchanges with Kenitra, in Morocco. The partnership, made possible thanks to the presence of Moroccan nationals in Santa Maria da Feira, started with a visit by a Kenitra delegation in 2012. Since then, a number of protocols between the two municipalities have been signed, in addition to the private sector business relations established.
Similar partnerships have been previously established in other countries, such as Venezuela, Mozambique and France. The municipality takes an active role in helping local businesses expand internationally. The diversity of Santa Maria da Feira’s population is a precious resource which the council has sought to make the most of.
Besides the local migrants, Santa Maria da Feira has also reached out to the Portuguese diaspora. Many successful Feirenses abroad have responded positively, allowing the municipality to continue its mission of providing business opportunities abroad for locally based companies.
José Fonseca, who owns of a construction company based in Payerne, Switzerland, has been invited to Santa Maria da Feira by the council. The idea is to help open up the Swiss market to local construction and building materials companies. Santa Maria da Feira’s location, close to Oporto’s transport infrastructure, makes it a key location for doing business in the rest of Europe and further afield.
The strategy underlying these initiatives involves finding partners for development, both immigrants from around the world living in Santa Maria da Feira and Feirense emigrants living abroad, building exchanges based on cultural diversity.