Pedro Edgar Gómez Barrero
Colombia
Pedro Edgar Gómez Barrero
  • Founder, Pedro Gómez & Co. and Co-Founder, Fundación Compartir (Construction; Real Estate; Education)
Born Cucunubá, Colombia, 1930. Law degree, Universidad del Rosario.
“I would tell young people that good quality training proves instrumental, but a value-based education is even more crucial. What do I mean? I mean that it is more important to learn how to behave ethically.”

Summary

Pedro Gómez is Founder of Pedro Gómez & Co., a construction and real estate company based in Bogotá, Colombia, and Co-Founder of Fundación Compartir, a business foundation that aims to improve the quality of education in Colombia. After studying law at the Universidad del Rosario he was appointed as a judge for both Bogotá and for Facatativá, one of the largest circuits in Colombia. In his interview, Gómez discusses the 1957 coup d'état where Gustavo Rojas Pinilla was ousted from power and control was handed over to a junta, albeit one created by Rojas himself. The junta proceeded to appoint a new mayor of Bogotá, Fernando Mazuera Villegas, who appointed Gómez as the Deputy Representative, in charge of providing Mazuera with support, judicial advice, and guidance on Bogotá’s development. In this interview, Gómez describes the steps he had to take in order to learn about the development of cities, a topic he was previously unfamiliar with. Gómez explains how he was later able to take this knowledge that he acquired during his public service role into his private undertakings, a shift that he describes as a natural transition after he was asked to manage Mazuera’s new urban development company, Currea Aya y Mazuera.

After managing the company for a few years, in 1968, Gómez moved on to found Pedro Gómez & Co. Gómez became known for his innovations in large shopping malls around Bogotá. The Unicentro mall, opened in 1976, symbolized Gómez’s vision of a shopping mall as enclave which offered all the city’s services and facilities in a single place. In this interview, Gómez describes his experience with this project including the challenges he encountered such as providing public utilities and security services, and securing and financing the property. Gómez explains how he was able to raise capital for such projects, which required huge investments in a city that lacked the mechanisms to attract private savings. Overall Gómez has built 24 shopping malls, reshaping the geography of the city of Bogotá in the process. In this interview, Gómez explains the effectiveness of the Constant Purchasing Power Unit (UPAC), enacted in 1972, in promoting the development of companies in Colombia. It enabled Colombians to fund projects with sales and collecting advance payments, and it allowed banks to develop a credit system. Previously, Colombia had no long-term loans and interest rates were high.

Gómez discusses how his company responded to the economic crisis that struck Colombia in the late 1990s and early 2000s, which was the most severe in Colombia’s history. Gómez describes the extremely negative impact of that recession on his own company, which lost over four-fifths of its capital. Gómez reflects on what he learned about managing in times of uncertainty, and how to overcome crises. During these years, and the Presidency of Andrés Pastrana, Gómez was also involved in negotiations with the FARC rebels waging civil war in the country. He travelled multiple times to the secret mountain headquarters of the movement’s leader Manuel Marulanda (nicknamed Tirofijo for his alleged accurate aim with firearms) in an unsuccessful attempt to end the conflict.

Gómez describes his philanthropic endeavors during his career. In 1979, he started Fundación Compartir to help the victims of natural disasters in response to the flooding of several neighborhoods by the Bogotá River and a seaquake in Tumaco. He built thousands of inexpensive homes and sold them with no profit. The foundation moved on to job creation by providing administrative training for micro-entrepreneurs, granting them a managerial degree after a 60-hour course. Gómez explains that he realized that the greatest void the country faced was inadequate education provision. Fundación Compartir now focuses on supporting teacher training in an effort to improve the overall quality of education. Gómez ends the interview by stressing that although good educational training was essential, he felt it was also vital to include ethical values in curricula, as it was “more important to learn how to behave ethically than how to perform professionally.”

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Pedro Gómez is Founder of Pedro Gómez & Co., a construction and real estate company based in Bogotá, Colombia, and Co-Founder of Fundación Compartir, a business foundation that aims to improve the quality of education in Colombia. After studying law at the Universidad del Rosario he was appointed as a judge for both Bogotá and for Facatativá, one of the largest circuits in Colombia. In his interview, Gómez discusses the 1957 coup d'état where Gustavo Rojas Pinilla was ousted from power and control was handed over to a junta, albeit one created by Rojas himself. The junta proceeded to appoint a new mayor of Bogotá, Fernando Mazuera Villegas, who appointed Gómez as the Deputy Representative, in charge of providing Mazuera with support, judicial advice, and guidance on Bogotá’s development. In this interview, Gómez describes the steps he had to take in order to learn about the development of cities, a topic he was previously unfamiliar with. Gómez explains how he was later able to take this knowledge that he acquired during his public service role into his private undertakings, a shift that he describes as a natural transition after he was asked to manage Mazuera’s new urban development company, Currea Aya y Mazuera.

After managing the company for a few years, in 1968, Gómez moved on to found Pedro Gómez & Co. Gómez became known for his innovations in large shopping malls around Bogotá. The Unicentro mall, opened in 1976, symbolized Gómez’s vision of a shopping mall as enclave which offered all the city’s services and facilities in a single place. In this interview, Gómez describes his experience with this project including the challenges he encountered such as providing public utilities and security services, and securing and financing the property. Gómez explains how he was able to raise capital for such projects, which required huge investments in a city that lacked the mechanisms to attract private savings. Overall Gómez has built 24 shopping malls, reshaping the geography of the city of Bogotá in the process. In this interview, Gómez explains the effectiveness of the Constant Purchasing Power Unit (UPAC), enacted in 1972, in promoting the development of companies in Colombia. It enabled Colombians to fund projects with sales and collecting advance payments, and it allowed banks to develop a credit system. Previously, Colombia had no long-term loans and interest rates were high.

Gómez discusses how his company responded to the economic crisis that struck Colombia in the late 1990s and early 2000s, which was the most severe in Colombia’s history. Gómez describes the extremely negative impact of that recession on his own company, which lost over four-fifths of its capital. Gómez reflects on what he learned about managing in times of uncertainty, and how to overcome crises. During these years, and the Presidency of Andrés Pastrana, Gómez was also involved in negotiations with the FARC rebels waging civil war in the country. He travelled multiple times to the secret mountain headquarters of the movement’s leader Manuel Marulanda (nicknamed Tirofijo for his alleged accurate aim with firearms) in an unsuccessful attempt to end the conflict.

Gómez describes his philanthropic endeavors during his career. In 1979, he started Fundación Compartir to help the victims of natural disasters in response to the flooding of several neighborhoods by the Bogotá River and a seaquake in Tumaco. He built thousands of inexpensive homes and sold them with no profit. The foundation moved on to job creation by providing administrative training for micro-entrepreneurs, granting them a managerial degree after a 60-hour course. Gómez explains that he realized that the greatest void the country faced was inadequate education provision. Fundación Compartir now focuses on supporting teacher training in an effort to improve the overall quality of education. Gómez ends the interview by stressing that although good educational training was essential, he felt it was also vital to include ethical values in curricula, as it was “more important to learn how to behave ethically than how to perform professionally.”
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Video Clips by Topic

Corruption

Pedro Gómez, who founded the construction company Pedro Gómez y Cia in Colombia in 1968, sums up the lessons of his long career for young Colombians, especially the need to behave ethically and to challenge corruption.
Keywords: Colombia, Corruption


Social Impact

Pedro Gómez, who founded the construction company Pedro Gómez y Cia in Colombia in 1968, discusses how he founded the Fundación Compartir in 1979 initially to help the victims of natural disasters, and how it evolved into first teaching micro-entrepreneurs, and later the training of school teachers.


Start-up

Pedro Gómez, who founded the construction company Pedro Gómez y Cia in Colombia in 1968, discusses how he built the first shopping mall in Bogotá by visiting foreign projects and contacting an old friend to secure finance.
Keywords: Colombia, Start-up


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Additional Resources

Additional Resources

Interview Citation Format

Interview with Pedro Edgar Gómez Barrero, interviewed by Andrea Lluch, Bogota, Colombia, December 9, 2019, Creating Emerging Markets Oral History Collection, Baker Library Special Collections, Harvard Business School.