San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Incoming businesses a bright spot in dim '09 economy

In a recession year, a boost to Costa Rica´s struggling economy came with the arrival or relocation of new businesses to the country. Many companies, particularly in the software and medical fields, either established or announced plans to open operations in Costa Rica in 2009.

Most new business arrivals cited the allure of the free trade zones, as well as the draw of an educated populace with a high number of bilingual speakers as reasons for establishing operations here.

Among the companies that announced the move to Costa Rica in 2009 were United States computer giant Hewlett-Packard (HP), which opened a research and development center in Heredia, north of San José; the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, which announced it will move all Central American and the Caribbean operations to Heredia; the U.S. medical supply companies St. Jude´s Medical and Moog Inc., both of which began construction on new facilities in the El Coyol free trade zone, in Alajuela, northwest of San José; Oracle, a leading business software company mow operating in the free trade zone in Santa Ana; and Olympus, the Japanese camera and imaging company.

Another related trend in 2009 was the relocation of jobs from the U.S. to Costa Rica. Three companies – Boston Scientific, Firestone and Amway Global – all announced that they are shedding jobs from their U.S. locations and hiring new workers in Costa Rica. In total, more than 1,000 jobs will be created in Costa Rica from these relocations.

However, this year´s level of overall foreign direct investment (FDI) probably won´t match the fast pace of previous years. Costa Rica saw nearly $1.9 billion in FDI in 2007 and more than $2 billion the following year. In January, as the global economic downturn set in, the Central Bank predicted that FDI will reach little more than $1.3 billion by the end of 2009.

Nevertheless, the big names in business continued to pop up in Costa Rica this year.

The likes of Armani Exchange and Rosa Clara recently provided a push for the retail sector with new the opening of new stores at the Multiplaza in Escazú, a shopping mall west of San José. The fifth and final wing of the Multiplaza opened 86 stores in an area of 100,000 square meters. These new stores employ approximately 900 people.

The telecommunications market officially opened to competition in January 2009 as Costa Rica entered the Central American Free Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA), but the opening has been slow to show positive results for consumers this year. Nevertheless, telecom authorities received applications from approximately 100 during the year from companies seeking a piece of the Costa Rican market.

With the opening of the cellular telephone market anticipated for 2010, the country can expect the interest of businesses to remain steady in the new year.

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