San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Foreign Medical Device Companies Keep Rolling In

Foreign medical companies are continuing to set up shop in Costa Rican free-trade zones.

Last Friday, the Minnesota-based medical supply company St. Jude Medical inaugurated a new plant in the El Coyol Free Zone in Alajuela, northwest of San José. The company plans to invest an estimated $670 million in the country and employ 2,000 Costa Ricans over the next five years. 

The St. Jude inauguration was followed on Monday by the announcement by Abbott Vascular, a division of health care company Abbott Laboratories, that it also will construct a plant in the El Coyol Trade Zone. The Abbott plant is expected to be completed by the end of 2012, and will cover 16,000 square meters and employ approximately 500 people. Abbott’s investment in Costa Rica is projected to be about  $50 million.

“The government of Costa Rica has established high expectations for the attraction of foreign direct investment, including $9 billion in foreign direct investment and $17 million in exports,” said Foreign Trade Minister Anabel González. “The arrival of a business as prestigious as Abbott is a clear example that we are advancing in the right direction.”

In 2009, the export of medical products generated more than $1.34 billion for the economy. Constituting 15.5 percent of the nation’s total export earnings, the export of medical products generates the second largest amount of export revenue in Costa Rica, behind only high-tech devices and computer processors.

Abbott, which in 2009 was ranked number 75 on the U.S. Fortune 500 list, is the 32nd foreign medical device company to plant its flag in Costa Rica.

In June, medical supply company Nitinol Devices & Components announced its arrival in the country as well, pledging to invest $3.5 million in operations.

In addition to contributing to investment and employment, the medical device industry is making strides in eco-architecture. The Boston Scientific plant in EL Coyol was recently recognized as Costa Rica’s first sustainable building by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The plant received the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEEDs) certification, a coveted designation for environmentally friendly buildings.

The Boston Scientific plant has floors made of cork, toxin-free paint on the walls and has a framework made of almost entirely of recycled materials. The building is also equipped with solar panels, windows to maximize natural light and a water treatment plant.

Twenty other Costa Rican buildings are in the running for the LEED certification.

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