Many of Puerto Rico’s companies, large and small, are exporting. This brings the territory a level of international competitiveness which it might not otherwise obtain. But it also calls for a move from a mindset which asks how the country’s firms can support the success of others to a concern with independence and proactivity.
Exporting services to other life science hubs will encourage our service sector to grow while creating new markets for Puerto Rico
Omar Muñiz, President, ShareTech Group
Countless service providers to the life sciences industry of Puerto Rico are expanding their services to nearby countries in the Caribbean, Latin America and the US.
“To continue growing we must expand outside Puerto Rico, particularly to the mainland US, which is a major point for us right now,” says CIC Construction Group’s Hermida. “We are in the process of obtaining the license to operate in North Carolina, and we are planning to open an office there early in 2016.”
“Companies have to be able to appeal to multinationals’ investments by strengthening their core competencies and outshining their competition on a global scale,” explains Andy Vivoni, business development manager for local contract sterilization company Steri-Tech. “In today’s game, the geographic barriers that existed in the past which restricted companies from transferring their operations are not present. Companies are now working on a multinational scale, outsourcing their operations to obtain the best cost-savings without sacrificing quality. Specialization has helped accelerate this trend, but the key element for us is differentiation. We have the basic infrastructure the industry needs but we have to offer the added value these companies desire.”
Steri-Tech is no stranger to working on this multinational scale. The company intends to outsource some of the products it currently resells from Asia and Latin America; “this would bring significant cost savings, compared to buying from secondhand suppliers in the US,” comments Vivoni. “Eventually we can start branding our own products as our competitors do. The goal is to increase sales by penetrating new markets, both stateside and Latin America, where we see an increase in pharmaceutical and biotechnology activity, while decreasing purchasing costs, which translates into income.”
“Exporting services to other life science hubs will encourage our service sector to grow while creating new markets for Puerto Rico. Working with academia to develop future professionals is also a great way of promoting growth,” says Omar Muñiz, president of ShareTech Group, a local engineering, architecture, environmental consulting, and construction program management firm. The company also aims to target Puerto Rico’s competitors in Ireland and Singapore. “It is fascinating to see how modern-day information technology and globalization can facilitate and connect us, service providers, to our multinational clients’ worldwide networks,” remarks Muñiz.
International expansion offers sizable opportunities for Puerto Rican companies. However, this must not be done in isolation. “Puerto Ricans should not think of their business as just part of an island; that is small thinking. We can broaden our collective mindsets,” remarks Yoel Rivera, president of local packaging company Ultimate Solutions Corp. “But for some reason, we have been taught to work for other people and make their processes better rather than bringing our own systems and make them globally scalable. It is a mindset that must change in Puerto Rico.” Rivera points out that some companies are trying to adopt this mindset, but that it must be developed much more in order to succeed. “We have great universities and key opinion leaders making great investigations, but for some reason we are just thinking about staying here locally,” Rivera continues. “That is not how we can create a global business. I would like others to realize that they can dream about being more global; we have been doing this for 60 years. R&D in global companies brings us their processes and we improve them. The change needs to be that we create those processes or be part of them to make sure we are owners of that technology and those patents.”
“Every company has its own strategic plan but we in Puerto Rico should be seen as a world-class exporter of these services,” says Edgar Torres, president of Escalate Sciences, a Puerto Rican specialized science-based consulting firm focused on R&D, tech transfer, process design & improvement, analytical development and characterization. “Most people know that consulting companies export qualification and validation, but with resources specialized in packaging, R&D, and many other areas in Puerto Rico, there will continue to be room for international growth. We have adapted to many needs in R&D; we can bring the right consulting resources with the right expertise to service different regions’ specific needs.”
“Companies have learned that they need to be very selective in their supply chain about who is supplying services and products,” continues García. “Companies today have a lot more evaluation in their processes. That is an opportunity because many companies here have operations in other parts of the world so they are recommending suppliers here outside of Puerto Rico. Those companies can start exporting their services. That is a win-win situation; the clusters and their supply chains become very meaningful. The stronger the cluster, the stronger the interactions of the supply chain, the more experience you have internationally, and the better service you can get here.”
Frankie Chévere, executive director of the Puerto Rico Trade and Export Company (CCE), has been working to help merchants and small businesses become more competitive and foster an export culture.
The first law that Governor Alejandro García Padilla’s signed in 2013 was the “Jobs Now Act” (Law 1), in which CCE played a pivotal role. “This law created a scheme of short-term incentives for companies to create jobs in Puerto Rico through tax exemptions, salary subsidies, and energy credits,” Chévere says. “It aimed to give preferential treatment through those incentives to SMEs. Big companies, both local and foreign, also benefited. The new jobs in the health industry were in new diagnostic centres, services for the elderly, small pharmacies, and medical offices, all of which benefitted from these incentives.”