San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Wealth of New Businesses Expected To Steady Economy

In a recession year, a boost to Costa Rica’s struggling economy came with the arrival or relocation of new foreign 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 and the draw of an educated populace with a high number of bilingual speakers as reasons for establishing operations in Costa Rica.

Some of the new companies are 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 now operating in the free trade zone in Santa Ana, west of San José; 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 – announced that they will cut jobs at their

U.S. locations and hire 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 would 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 stores recently provided a push for the retail sector with the opening of new stores at Multiplaza shopping mall in Escazú, west of San José. The 100,000-square-meter fifth – and final – wing of Multiplaza includes 86 new stores that will employ approximately 900 people.

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

–Adam Williams

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