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Puerto Rico mines its legacy to manufacture its future

October 1, 2021

Invest Puerto Rico (InvestPR) had the honor of sponsoring the inaugural roundtable event of this year’s Manufacturing Week, coordinated locally by the Puerto Rico Manufacturing Extension, Inc. (PRiMEX) as part of an effort to underscore the importance of this sector to the Island’s present and future. During the discussion, industry and government leaders took a deep dive into what needs to be done to strengthen the local manufacturing ecosystem and drive Puerto Rico’s economic transformation.

Historically, manufacturing has been the axis of the Island’s economic development. Through multisectoral collaboration with organizations such as PRiMEX, InvestPR develops strategies not only to attract advanced manufacturing to Puerto Rico, but also to strengthen the current landscape through access to information, knowledge, and global market trends. Through these efforts, we aim to increase the Island’s capacity to respond to emerging needs and changes, in addition to improving our competitiveness as an investment destination.

Puerto Rico has six decades of manufacturing experience to substantiate this approach. Looking to 2020, the manufacturing sector was responsible for over 47% of GDP to the tune of about $50 billion. Also, the sector supported 78,000 direct jobs, with an average salary of $37,000, and generated about 143,000 indirect jobs.

However, truth is that manufacturing itself is also changing. According to economist José Joaquín Villamil, manufacturing will evolve to incorporate new technologies that further blur the line between tangible and intangible manufactured products, as well as integrate advanced professional services as part of the end-product offering. 

To meet new and future sector needs, significant investments are being made to further support excellence in manufacturing, including world-class connectivity with 0G IoT networks and a robust 5G wireless network via 30+ internet providers Puerto Rico has a competitive and cost-effective ICT infrastructure, backed by a cutting-edge 5G lab on the Island (one of only four in the U.S.). 

Another plus: Puerto Rico has a transportation logistics infrastructure that acts as a launchpad from which manufacturers can get goods to the rest of the world. In addition to the Island’s strategic location in the Caribbean, with easy access to the Americas and other international destinations, Puerto Rico’s three international hubs, 11 seaports, and 11 airports allow manufacturers and service exporters to take advantage of all the benefits that the Island has to offer. 

A key element in Puerto Rico’s value proposition for manufacturing enterprises is its people power and business-friendly environment. As Manuel Cidre, the Secretary of the Department of Economic Development and Commerce and InvestPR’s Chairman said during the PRiMEX panel discussion, Puerto Rico is among the best investment destinations on the planet, not only for its human capital —which is highly educated in the STEM fields as well as fully bilingual and bicultural— but also for the stability and safety of the financial and legal system, largely due to the Island’s relationship as a United States jurisdiction. 

Looking forward, and as shown during the Manufacturing Week activities, myriad sectors in Puerto Rico are aligned in accomplishing the shared goal of economic transformation, looking to manufacturing as a key driver. Effective leadership at all levels and across all sectors plays an important role in transforming companies with greater resilience for the future, creating a culture of innovation, and embracing advanced technologies.

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