Scientists in laboratory working on research

The availability of a trained work force is a critical factor in attracting and retaining new businesses to Puerto Rico.

Companies considering the possibility of moving to Puerto Rico and establish their manufacturing operations are expressing a strong interest on the availability of a trained labor force, according to Invest PR’s interim executive director Ella Woger.

“The most critical factor in attracting, and retaining new businesses to Puerto Rico is the availability of a trained work force,” Woger said. “Several companies did praised Puerto Rico’s human capital in an event we sponsored for site selectors last March, and urged us to promote this ‘little jewel’ the island has to offer to the manufacturing sector,” she added.

She also mentioned that during the recent Bio International Conference, more than 100 Puerto Ricans with PhD degrees and living in the U.S. came to her and expressed their “excitement about all the opportunities” that could be developed in the island in the bioscience industry. “These are people that, given the opportunity, are willing to come back to Puerto Rico,”Woger said.

Questioned about the confirmed migration of almost 100,000 Puerto Ricans to the U.S. over the last 10 years, a significant number of them highly trained professionals, she said Invest PR is committed to promote the opportunities that are currently being created to bring them back.

Nevertheless, Woger pointed out the need to continue “strengthening our labor force” in order for it to be prepared to meet the demands of the future.

During a recent round table discussion on the importance of the manufacturing industry for Puerto Rico’s economic development, Woger explained Invest PR’s strategy in promoting the island as an investment destination is centered in showcasing the strong points and resources that make it attractive for new businesses to come and establish their operations.

Woger did admit the island still faces specific challenges that need to be overcome in order to increase its competitiveness, but assured Invest PR is working with the government and the private sector on identifying possible solutions.

One of those challenges is the availability of industrial real estate to establish new operations.

“We do have several facilities available as part of our business promotion plan, but they are not infinite. So, we have to be creative to identify and/or create other real estate alternatives we can promote,” Woger said.

As one of those real estate alternatives, the executive director mentioned the Molecular Research Center (MRC), which could be used as “a landing pad” for emerging companies considering coming to Puerto Rico. Woger also mentioned OcyonBio, a partnership development and manufacturing organization whose facilities in Aguadilla may attract other companies.

“We are looking for alternatives to what has been the traditional, standard [real estate] offering. We are trying to expand that offer in terms of facilities for tech and bioscience companies that could come to Puerto Rico,” she explained.

Regarding government and tax incentives for new manufacturing operations, Wogger explained that, while this issue is not one of the top considerations for companies looking into the possibility of establishing their businesses in Puerto Rico, the island needs to be competitive in this area. The executive director characterized the tax incentives scenario in Puerto Rico as “very uncertain.”

Questioned on Puerto Rico’s economic subordination to American legislation and regulations, such as the Jones Act, and the possibility of having to participate in the global minimum tax initiative, by virtue of the island’s relation with the U.S., Woger reiterated the uncertainty looming in this area.

“There are several possible scenarios. Therefore, we are focusing on strengthening Puerto Rico’s other assets in order not to depend only on tax incentives. Certainly, incentives are important, but Puerto Rico’s general competitiveness needs to be strengthened because, if the global minimum tax is finally enacted, and all jurisdictions were to compete in a leveled playing field, we would need those other assets to effectively compete with them,” Woger said.

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