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In Brazil, Economic Opportunity Beckons Westerners

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The beaches of Brazil lure in foreigners, but fortune-hunters are more interested in the opportunities offered by the rapidly developing South American state.

The global economic downturn is starting to affect Brazil, but the country has not nearly been as hard-hit as Europe and the U.S. The emerging economy is enticing to young, highly trained and educated workers like David Bailey of Britain.

Bailey plays piano as he and his roommates prepare for a party in Rio de Janeiro. They're all foreigners — from France, Switzerland, Spain — and all of them are here for work.

Bailey says Brazil is fun, sunny and has a strong culture of music.

"On the other hand," he says, "it's a place, one of the few places actually, where the economy is growing and there are significant opportunities."

Bailey, 28, has a talent not just for the piano, but also for business. He decided to leave London, where many of his friends are jobless, and come to Brazil.

He's raised the capital and is now starting up a website to take advantage of Brazilians' growing fondness for ordering out.

His initiative will allow diners to peruse menus online and place their orders — which is common in the U.S., but not in Rio.

"Well, you know what, the market is actually really big," Bailey says. "Instead of people using the telephone to make their orders, they're going to use the Internet increasingly more."

Opportunities For Foreigners

As Brazil's economy has grown in recent years, work authorizations for foreigners rose fast.

The country's unemployment rate is 6 percent — with companies finding it hard to fill top-end jobs, from engineers to financial experts to executives.

Manolo Ferreres, who's from economically troubled Spain, says people from his country know this trend all too well.

"There's a lack, a clear lack of qualified people between 30 years old and 40 years old," Ferreres says. "And you can see that because there's no unemployment for that profile of professionals, there's no unemployment. And the complete opposite situation is what's happening in Spain."

John Murray, who manages the executive head-hunting firm Boyden, is an American who's been in Brazil nearly 50 years. He knows better than most what expatriate workers dream of.

In 1963, Murray came here to export coffee for A&P, a coffee company that boasts nature-sealed, "100 percent Brazilian Eight O'Clock Coffee."

He arrived on a cargo ship and remembers hand-cranked phones and an economy that was coffee-based.

It was an uncertain land of opportunity then — and Murray says there are still problems, like Brazil's notorious red tape.

But he also says Brazil has been transformed.

"Things are still happening here," Murray says. "There is a feeling especially for a young executive that he can come down here, either starting with a job and eventually becoming an entrepreneur. Many times they don't see the negatives, which are also here, but right now Brazil just looks very, very rosy."

From Wall Street To Faria Lima

Jon Rosenthal, who used to work on Wall Street, acknowledges that the economy is suddenly flat because of the global downturn. But the 31-year-old New Yorker also knows that the 4 percent growth the government is forecasting for 2012 is still good by European standards.

On a recent day, he relaxed with a coffee just off Faria Lima — the country's economic engine which is the Wall Street of Sao Paulo.

"These developed-world cities are static relative to what we're seeing around here in Brazil," Rosenthal says. "The investment opportunities here, the overall morale of the investment community here definitely inspires a lot of excitement and confidence."

Rosenthal explains that he had to be here — a city where he could learn about the fast-growing companies on Brazil's stock exchange. It was vital for his startup, a hedge fund called Newfoundland Capital Management.

He says being in Sao Paulo is like living at a time when Rome is being built.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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