Western Union deepened its hold in the country yesterday when it announced an expansion of its service sector, effectively doubling the size of its workforce on Costa Rican soil.
Company executives and top government officials attended the ribbon cutting ceremony, held at the company’s shiny new facility at Forum II in Santa Ana, west of San José.
Taking a shot at free-trade opponents, Vice President Laura Chinchilla interpreted Western Union’s growing presence as proof that private companies have helped develop the country.
“Costa Rica … did not develop by itself, but through a chain of solidarity and collaboration between the government, private companies and local communities,” Chinchilla said.
Ten years ago, Western Union opened its doors with 33 people working in a call center that covered Latin America and the Caribbean. It now employs 600 people and has extended services to the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia and Africa.
With the opening of the new Santa Ana office, Western Union hopes to double its workforce to 1,200 people, making it the fifth largest employer in the country’s service sector and bringing its overall investment here to ¢4,600 million (about $9 million).
The company provides a variety of services through its local GlobalServiceCenter, including software development, technical support, and accounting services in eight different languages.
But most people recognize the company’s black and yellow insignia as a money-transfer Mecca.
“Remittances are a large part of who and what we are at Western Union,” said CEO Christina Gold.
In 2007 alone, migrant workers sent home $369 billion – a figure that dwarfs by three times the official aid received by developing countries, she said.
“We see our company as a positive example of the power of globalization and the way pioneering people can use the market to change the world,” said Gold.
The service industry in Costa Rica employs roughly 20,000 people, from architects to financial consultants, according to Gabriela Llobet, general director of the Costa Rican Investment Promotion Agency.