Since 1917, three years after the opening of the Panama Canal, the possibility of building a free zone in the area in Colon was discussed. The Columbus Chamber of Commerce proposed the project of a free zone in 1929, the project was taken into account after World War II, in 1948.
In 1945 the then President of the Republic Enrique Jiménez had the initiative to build the Colon Free Zone, taking advantage of our geographical position of the ports and the interoceanic waterway, a crucial step in world navigation.
In 1946 the Panamanian government hired Dr. Thomas E. Lyons, an American citizen and foreign trade specialist, to carry out a feasibility study in our country in order to build a free zone. Lyons conceived the free zone as a strategic center that would connect the industries of the United States and Europe with Latin American customers, concentrating on the same geographical point mainly wineries but also suppliers' industries, which in turn would bring collateral benefits to Panama in the area of construction, land prices, transfer of managerial knowledge, stimulation of business tourism, industrialization of Panama, increased revenues of the Panama Canal and increased air traffic.
Based on its recommendations and projections, the government gave its approval two (2) years later. It was until June 1948 that Decree Law No. 18 of June 17, 1948 was created as an autonomous institution of the Panamanian State, as an area to exploit the country's competitive advantages when it was at the entrance of the Panama Canal through the Atlantic Ocean.
The first board of directors of the Colon Free Zone was constituted as follows:
- Agustín Cedeño President
- Manuel Castillo Secretary
- Herbert Toledano Treasurer
- Roberto Eisenmann Vocal
- George Bennet Vocal
- Galileo Solis Advisor
Being the first manager of the Administration of the Colon Free Zone Don Silvio Salazar, whose appointment became effective on two (2) December, 1950.
The first company to operate in the Free Zone was Motta International, which today is still an important company in the Colon Free Zone. It is worth mentioning that other large established companies can highlight: Gillette Sport, Coca Cola Export Corp., Pfizer Int, Park Davis Inc., among others.
In the 1990s, the Colon Free Zone became the headquarters for Latin America of companies from Japan and recently industrialized countries in Asia and a center for re-exports to the United States.
One of the fundamental pillars for the free zone to be carried out was the Chamber of Commerce of Colon, in order to create economic benefits for the province of Colon and therefore the Panamanian state.
During the government of President Juan Carlos Varela, in 2016, a new legislation is approved (Law No. 8 of April 4, 2016), which reorganizes the Colon Free Zone and dictates other provisions.
Currently the Colon Free Zone has more than 2,600 established companies and its main markets we can mention China, Singapore, United States, Puerto Rico, Panama, Colombia, among others.
"Colon Free Zone, multimodal logistics center of Panama, for the World"