Manufacturing industry leaders plead for support from all sectors, as this industry represents a 45% contribution to Puerto Rico’s overall gross national income, according to Migdalia Rosado, executive director of PriMEX, a private non-profit organization that created and retained 4,891 manufacturing jobs in the 2018 fiscal year.
In preamble to the week that is dedicated to celebrating the manufacturing industry starting this September 23rd, industry leaders joined government representatives to discuss the emerging economic development opportunities, like investing in the technology and innovation sectors to meet the endemic problems the island has faced in previous years; one of these being being the immediate need for drinkable water after Hurricane Maria, and how many micro-companies emerged to supply this demand. Felix Rivera, Engiworks president, abounded on this issue.
The leaders reiterated this industry’s permanence in generating economic activity on the island, generating more than 74,000 jobs on the island today with over 1,700 different manufacturing companies.
The group established a collective call to search for more opportunities and strategies on how this industry can see improvement in terms of government permisology, approval of labels for different products, and distribution mechanisms among other issues.
To abound on these challenges that small companies face was Wanda Otero, founder of Vaca Negra, a local aged cheese and artisanal yogurt producing factory that distributes its products in Puerto Rico’s major super markets like Supermax, Amigo, and Pueblo.
“One thing that could be done is to create an incentive where the distributor charges a little less so that we could see more gains and also establish better agreements with super markets regarding the placement of products on the shelves,” said Otero.
For every yogurt that costs $6.00, the super market keeps $1.50, the distributor also keeps $1.50, and Otero is left with $3.00 to operate her operation, a negotiation that is simply not cost-effective.
On the other hand, Félix Negrón, vice president of operations of Medtronic, a multinational medical device manufacturer that is the largest in the world, said that the key to economic development is making sure companies have a good foundation in terms of company policy. He mentioned five major basic principles all companies should shave secured, including product quality, excellent service, new products, competitive pricing, and an overarching policy of continuous improvement.
The industrialist did not hesitate to extend his gratitude to Julio Benitez, sub secretary of the Department of Economic Development and Commerce of Puerto Rico (DDEC) sitting right beside him, for the extensive support this agency has offered, specifically in establishing a new Incentive Code, approved this last July by the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico, that has been crucial, according to Negrón, for Medtronic’s success.
“Thanks to this collaboration, our employments will continue to grow,” said Negrón.
Regarding the benefits of the new incentive code, Benitez said that “in terms of new projects, we already have in the pipeline more than 100 new compromised projects, that involve new businesses and the expansion of current ones. That alone represent more than $100 million compromised in incentives that will be granted to these companies,” said Benitez.
Benitez added that more than 10,000 new jobs will be created and in terms of retainment, around 20,000 jobs will continue to be secured.