Hidden Valleys

Sun, Beaches and Tech Companies by the Hundreds

Photographer: SIME/eStock Photo

The downtown Malaga district, Spain. Close

The downtown Malaga district, Spain.

Photographer: SIME/eStock Photo

The downtown Malaga district, Spain.

It's not what you'd expect to find in southern Spain's Malaga, a remote but popular tourist spot known for its beautiful beaches and rich history as one of the world's oldest cities -- technology companies. Nearly 600 of them.

Located in Andalucia, a region with the country's highest unemployment rate of almost 37 percent, Malaga is home to one of the country's biggest concentrations of tech companies, including home-grown startups and multinationals such as IBM, Telefonica, Siemens, Huawei and Oracle.

They're all located in the Parque Tecnologico de Andalucia, a technology park that started in 1992 with eight companies. At the end of last year, it counted 593 businesses employing 14,716 people, of which 54 percent belonged to the electronics, software and telecommunications industries, according to Felipe Romera, the park's general manager. Revenue from companies in the park reached 1.65 billion euros ($2.2 billion).

The park even managed to expand through the six-year economic slump, adding more than a hundred companies and a thousand employees during that span.

But life hasn't been a beach for everyone.

Local companies that focused on the struggling domestic market suffered the most in the past few years. And while the presence of global technology companies benefits the local economy and job market, the lack of local companies making it big has been noticeable. For countries trying to earn their tech credentials, that's a key requirement.

"I haven't yet seen that many successful startups coming out of the park in Malaga," said Enrique Dans, a professor of information systems at IE Business School in Madrid.

Until Malaga's version of Waze comes along, the park's Romera continues to sell to multinationals the area's virtues: low-cost labor, high-speed trains, an international airport.

Oh yeah, and the beaches.

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