Puerto Rico Manufacturers’ Central American Region Integration to be Supported
SAN JUAN – The Council of presidents and directors of the Federation of Industrial Chambers and Manufacturers Associations of Central America, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico (FECAICA) agreed Friday to support the local Manufacturers Association’s efforts to integrate into the region.
Taking into account the areas of importance to the island, FECAICA agreed to support the local association’s efforts for a free energy market and competition in the region, to increase the use of renewables and to ensure the lowest sustainable energy costs.
“We support all efforts of business collaboration and the productive channeling of manufacturing and service to strengthen skills for the purpose of advancing economic development in each country, and level the commercial balance, to achieve better use of CAFTA [Central America Free Trade Agreement ],” FECAICA President Mario Amador said at a news conference Friday during the Manufacturers Association’s annual convention.
He urged regional heads to work hand-in-hand in favor of sustainable development to optimize resources and encourage growth and quality of life.
Amador said FECAICA’s task in supporting Puerto Rico will revolve in lobbying to eliminate trade barriers and bureaucracy that prevents economic growth.
While Puerto Rico is still a strong manufacturing competitor, the repeal of the Section 936 tax incentives caused economic stagnation, the loss of 350,000 manufacturing jobs and the loss of 500,000 residents in the past decade.
The Manufacturers Association represents more than 1,000 manufacturing companies, suppliers and service providers and about 350,000 workers. Manufacturing comprises half of the island’s gross domestic product, pays the highest salaries and creates three indirect jobs for every direct job.
The efforts to join forces with Latin organizations comes about because the island faces tough competition from countries such as Singapore, China and India, which have lower labor costs and better infrastructure along with highly skilled workers.
Luis Alvarado, president of Enterprise Improvement Solutions Co., said Puerto Rico needs to “raise the bar and be limitless” to compete.
“If we continue to do the same thing over and over, we are not going to achieve anything,” said Félix Negrón, vice president of operations for Medtronic Corp., a medical device company with 88 plants worldwide.
He stressed the need for manufacturing companies to develop long-term plans and strategies to give stability to all processes. The strategies must focus on developing quality, supplying products and increasing efficiency.
“Each year, you must lower total costs by 5% to 6%; reduce indirect costs by 10%,” he said.
Antonio Negrón, president of the Aerospace Technology Consortium, provided an overview of Puerto Rico’s opportunities in the aerospace industry, mainly in the parts- and component-supply area, as well as assembly.
In the defense industry, the island has an advantage because U.S. law requires all components in the industry to be manufactured in U.S. jurisdiction.