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Medical Manufacturer Expands Operations

Foreign direct investment may be down as a result of the financial crisis, but a longplanned project that will provide nearly 2,000 new jobs in Costa Rica’sCentral Valleyby 2011 has come to pass.



Boston Scientific, a top-tier producer of medical devices, opened its second production facility in Costa Rica Tuesday. It is a massive new investment that will provide new jobs to workers across the economic and educational spectrum during the next two years.



With its second facility – located in the Propark free-trade zone in Coyol, near Alajuela –the company has almost doubled its original 2004 investment in Costa Rica.



The nearly $30 million Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified building – the first manufacturing building to be certified a “green building” inLatin America– is an airy and well-lighted, sprawling facility of 129,000 square meters.



The company, which already employs 1,700 workers in its Costa Rican operations, expects to double the number of employees during the next two years, said Jorge Perera, the company’s vice president of operations in Costa Rica.



The new jobs will range across the educational spectrum, from highly specialized engineering positions to trained, technical personnel who will piece together the intricate devices for which the company is known worldwide. Some 60 percent of the new employees will be technical workers who are not required to have university degrees.



The other 40 percent will be positions that require higher education, Perera said.



“To be a manufacturing corporation, you need specialized, manual workers,” Perera said. “But it’s not just anyone. They need to have a lot of preparation, so we invest a lot in personnel training.”



At the elaborate opening ceremony, President Oscar Arias spoke of the innovative reputation of not only the company, but of the city of Boston, where he attendedBostonUniversity.



“(Boston) is a city where it’s not important the hat on top of your head, but the ideas inside it,” Arias said.



After years of investment in the educational system Costa Rica is also a place where learning is a top priority, said Arias, where “the question is: how much do you know?” Arias’ remarks were echoed by Boston Scientific’s vice president for operations based outside of the United States, Gary Hicks.



“We picked Costa Rica to build this plant because this country offers a skilled, welleducated population,” he said. “And that is very important for us. We view it as much as an investment in people, as in facilities.”



The remarks came as the Legislative Assembly prepared to discuss the proposed changes to the free trade zone law (TT, June 5). As a manufacturer that exports almost all it produces, Boston Scientific currently benefits from generous tax incentives, a situation which has drawn criticism from some for favoring international companies over local ones. Under the proposed law, Boston Scientific could qualify for tax-free status because of the size of its investment. However, how the new rules will play out in individual cases is still hazy, and depends on whether the new law recognizes investments made before it comes into force. But the company would certainly reap the benefits of more advantageous tax credits for employee training under the proposed law.



After the official ribbon-cutting ceremony, Arias and the media toured the new production lines and facility – but not before they were issued sterile hairnets and laboratory suits.



The new space, which had been filled only recently with production lines, sports white ceilings, walls and floors that echo the available space and exudes a feeling of medical cleanliness.



Workers diligently put together medical devices with the help of high-definition, ultra-zoom monitors – though most did the intricate maneuvering of almost nonexistent screws with no visual aids.



Boston Scientific – based in Natick, Massachusetts, in the U.S. – built its first plant in Costa Rica in theGlobalParkfree-trade zone near Heredia in 2004.



The Costa Rican facilities are the company’s largest producers of specialized equipment for treating diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, which runs from the mouth to the anus. The instruments range from catheters to mechanized forceps and snares used to take tissue samples or to remove abnormal tissue growths.



The company has nearly 29,000 employees worldwide, with 15,000 different products made in 26 plants worldwide. The company is the largest manufacturer of noninvasive medical equipment, which it supplies to almost every country in the world, said Hicks.







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