When the Fray Bentos pulp mill opened, UPM asked Equipos Consultores to study the site’s social impact on the community. The ten-year study fulfills a request from DINAMA, Uruguay’s national environmental agency, and provides valuable information on the changes in Fray Bentos since then.
Just over ten years ago, it was a sleepy town seemingly stuck in a time warp, with a declining population and only a few basic services. When the mill project was announced, the local economy received a welcome jump start.
The direct and indirect employment impact of the mill accelerated the town’s economic growth. and triggered development in other sectors. As more people moved to the town, new houses were built and neighbourhoods developed. Families with school-aged children increased the student population, and this in turn led to more schools.
Ten years after the mill’s construction, Fray Bentos is thriving. When the initial need for workers had subsided, people turned to entrepreneurship. Locals took advantage of the town’s location near the bridge, which links Uruguay and Argentina, and of the improved infrastructure and services now available.
More training opportunities and vitality
Perhaps the most impactful change has been to the educational sector. The Universidad de la República has opened a campus. Uruguay’s new UNESCO World Heritage site, a former meatpacking plant, is home to the regional campus of the University of Labor of Uruguay (UTU). UTU has the largest number of students in the country.
Fray Bentos hosts the Regional Technological Institute (ITR) under the Uruguay Technical University (UTEC). The locals appreciate the improvement of the educational sector and collaboration with the private and public sector and the expansion of the technical education in particular. Having access to tertiary education means that the young people of Fray Bentos and from nearby areas no longer needed to travel to the capital for higher education.
Text: Geni Raitisoja