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How Spain Got Its Swagger Back

How Spain Got Its Swagger Back

Nine years ago, Spanish entrepreneur Javier Goyeneche was fighting a losing battle to save his footwear and accessories company from the cratering economy. Today he has a new venture making apparel from waste plastic harvested from the ocean, and he’s on track to double revenue for a second straight year. “I started Ecoalf in the middle of the crisis, and it was really difficult,” he says. “We have really loyal clients, and word-of-mouth has been really good for us. But it’s obvious that the economic situation is positive.”

That’s a turnaround from Spain’s deepest recession in a half-century, triggered by a property crash. Economic output shrank almost 10 percent from 2008 to 2013, prompting the country to seek a €41 billion ($48 billion) bailout from the European Union. Stroll around Madrid today, and you’ll see new shops and restaurants, along with shiny, late-model cars. Seseña, a half-hour’s drive south of the capital, used to be a ghost town of half-built housing developments and empty streets. Now apartments are filling up, and local officials are planning an industrial park.