Carlson sees Tricom in a unique position to capitalize on the growing economic openness of Caribbean and Latin American countries. That optimism applies to his country as well. "In this day and age, we aren't just an inward looking Caribbean island nation," Carlson says. "We are very much into the modern age."

From coffee to platinum microchips
When Intel Corporation was in the market for a new plant in Latin America, it considered four countries - Mexico, Brazil, Chile, and Costa Rica. It was Costa Rica that won the day. Why? Intel executive Danilo Arias cites the abundance of technical and engineering talent concentrated there, and the country's stable economy, government, and legal system. Now the plant employs 2,100 people, more than 98 percent of them "Ticos," as Costa Ricans are called in Central America.

Intel's story in Costa Rica points to the reasons why Fortune magazine has listed San Jose among the top five Latin American cities for business, and why the likes of Abbott Laboratories and Procter & Gamble have joined the crowd by opening substantial new manufacturing and back-office facilities. Costa Rica's advantages range from the basic - 93 percent adult literacy and a low crime rate - to more specialized, such as San Jose's inexpensive supply of geothermal and hydroelectric power and its fiber-optic telecom network. The government wins kudos for its support of foreign investment and its emphasis on clean water and education. And an influx of foreign banks, including Citibank and Bank of Nova Scotia, has put more capital on the table for local business growth.

And it all adds up to economic growth. The Costa Rican Chamber of Exporters reports that foreign investment in the industrial and manufacturing sector has grown from 30 percent to 54 percent over the past decade. In dollar terms, while the country received $162 million in foreign investment in 1990, by 1999 that figure had reached a tidy $600 million.