At six this morning, the beach at Phan Rang was a beehive of activity — joggers, fishers, volleyballers, swimmers, sunrise worshipers — but certainly not crowded. By far this was the busiest time of day; by seven, the miles of underdeveloped beach were pretty much abandoned.
The scene captured one of the reasons Phan Rang may be among the best investment opportunities in Vietnam — and perhaps the world — today. This beach is destined to change radically over the next decade.
Many global businesses know Vietnam is an energetic, enterprising, hard-working nation of tens of millions of early risers who work out at the beach or the park before starting the workday.
In this regard, Phan Rang is no exception. It is an exceptional opportunity because its miles of beaches, though trashy in spots, rise to the level of quality of the Vietnam’s most popular seacoast resort areas (Mui Ne, Hoi An, Phu Quoc, Nha Trang, and Vung Tau) — yet Phan Rang remains largely unknown and therefore undeveloped. Where one visitor sees a blank canvas, an entrepreneur sees hordes of Chinese consumers desperate to get away from China’s crowded beaches.
But that’s just a small part of the Phan Rang investment story. The rest includes these elements:
- The best weather in Vietnam; the most sunny days and least rain. Today is the middle of the monsoon season, and it has rained for five minutes in four days.
- Two national parks that include spectacular rock formations that I call God’s sculpture garden (more on that in a future post).
- Provincial leadership that was the first in Vietnam with the wisdom to hire international consultants — including Michael Porter’s consultancy from Harvard — to help them create a plan for Ninh Thuan Province (of which Phan Rang is the center).
- Vietnam’s first Economic Development Office, a one-stop shop for international investors that has the clout and capacity to cut through the red tape that has been driving global businesses crazy elsewhere in Vietnam.
The final element is good or bad, depending on your point of view: Ninh Thuan Province is aiming at becoming a global clean energy center, and that includes nuclear power. The Vietnamese government selected the province for its first nuclear power plant — and also its second. The two plants will flank Phan Rang, each about 25 miles away from the city. The first, with Russian assistance, is scheduled to begin construction in 2014; the second, a partnership with Japan, in 2020.
That decision promises to bring massive amounts of economic activity to Phan Rang and provide jobs for an international workforce of 20,000 people, including hundreds of highly trained professionals.
Also, the reasons the province has been selected are instructive because they coincide in part with attributes that attract residents and tourists: The province is considered the most stable in Vietnam — least likely to experience earthquakes, typhoons, and other natural disasters. And, obviously, the Vietnamese, with the help of Russia and Japan, are engineering the plants with avoidance of another Japanese tsunami in mind.