Porto Alegre is possibly the most cheerfully-named city in the whole of Brazil, translating into “Happy Harbour”. Over 1.5 million people live within the actual city limits and three times as many if you include the whole metropolitan area.
The city is located in the far south of Brazil, not far from Uruguay and is the capital, in fact, of the country’s southernmost state, Rio Grande do Sul.
Historically, the development of the area has been very interesting. ‘PA’ was founded by immigrants from the Portuguese Azores Islands in the mid eighteen century, rather later than many of the other coastal cities. In the 1880’s and 1890’s other waves of incomers arrived from other parts of the world, mainly Europe (and especially countries such as Germany and Italy).
The geography of the city is very unusual. Porto Alegre is on the eastern side of Guaiba Lake. Nearby, five rivers meet to form a huge freshwater lagoon, Lagoa dos Patos, (the name means “lagoon of the ducks”) which has become a very important port and is also surrounded by a wide-ranging industrial area.
Industry is thriving in the region and the overall GDP of the city nowadays is over R$30 Billion. Main activities locally are services of all kinds (about 60 percent), productive industry accounts for about
30 %. The leather processing and shoe making industries are important and mainly located in the satellite town of Novo Hamburgo. It’s estimated that more than 80 percent of Brazil’s shoe exports originate here. Other notable industries are petrochemicals, cars and computer parts.
Porto Alegre is also a centre for the surrounding agricultural region. This involves mainly tobacco, rice, peaches and plums, plus cassava (which is mainly produced on smaller-sized farms). A large proportion of all this is exported through the excellent port.
Because of its fantastic infrastructure, facilities and climate, the city is something of a magnet for people who flock from other parts of Brazil. With an unemployment rate of seven percent, there is still much work to be done, however this is still much smaller than many other towns and cities in the country. Per capita earnings/income among people in the area is nearly R$ 21,000 per year which is very impressive to most Brazilians and helps to explain the steady immigration to the city.
Regarding the people of Porto Alegre as a whole, nearly seventy percent of the population is concentrated in the northern zone where the city centre is also located. On several occasions since the turn of the century, the city has hosted meetings of the World Social Forum and in 2006 the Ninth Assembly of the World Council of Churches was held here.
Within Porto Alegre, two of the most successful and most fanatically supported teams in Brazil, Gremio and Internacional, can be seen. Both are previous world champions, with Gremio winning the Intercontinental Cup against Hamburg in 1983 and Internacional matching their rival’s achievement by defeating Barcelona in 2006 to win the renamed World Club Championship.
In June 2014, the city will also welcome the FIFA World Cup, with five matches to be played at Internacional’s Beira Rio stadium.
As regards potential for returns on investment, there are good prospects. The varied and diverse economy of the city area provides good potential returns for both long term investment and short term investment in a wide range of industries and services.