Talent, education, and logistics as competitive advantages

Talent, education, and logistics as competitive advantages

In a recent trip to Europe with the DEDC’s assistant secretaries for business development and strategic affairs and the CEO of InvestPR, our main partner in economic development and investment attraction, our main purpose was to connect with senior executives of European medical device companies in Italy and Germany that maintain operations in Puerto Rico and to understand first-hand what challenges they see on the Island and how we can attract business expansions. We participated in the largest medical device fair in the world, in which, in addition to promoting Puerto Rico, we verified global trends in this industry.

Since I assumed the role of Secretary of the DEDC, one of my main objectives has been to keep an ear on the ground to identify the challenges that the Island's productive sector faces daily. That is why in my conversations with the five CEO's with whom I met, issues related to talent and logistics emerged as some of the challenges to be addressed urgently on the Island.

The good news is that these issues are fundamental to the competitiveness model that we promote from the DEDC and that rules the priorities of our efforts. However, the issue of taxes will no longer be the main attraction to interest investment, especially with the issue of the global minimum tax that particularly impacts these priority industries that operate in Puerto Rico. I return more convinced than ever that we must fixate over these issues that will undoubtedly give us the competitive advantage we need, which will motivate these executives to select Puerto Rico as their investment destination.

When we talk about logistics, we have identified with these companies the need to add air connectivity to Puerto Rico, especially to and from Europe, which is the destination of much of the product manufactured on the Island and is the origin of most of their materials. This is something that we have already been working on for a few months because of the air transfer waiver that was granted to us by the Federal Department of Transportation. We have defined a roadmap, and we have begun to work on it, to create the capacities at the local level that will make Puerto Rico a center of excellence in logistics, throughout the distribution chain, from ground transportation to storage and monitoring of cargo, from its origin to its destination.

Regarding this matter, the Port Authority and the San Juan Airport are on board, working on a series of initiatives to reclaim our position as a first-rate logistics center. There are jurisdictions that claim to be the logistics centers for pharmaceutical handling, such as Brussels and Amsterdam.

As part of this trip, my team also visited and met with executives from the Amsterdam Airport to see and understand how they managed to position themselves as a global logistics hub for pharmaceuticals. With this effort we seek to add connectivity that will help the local manufacturing base to improve its service levels and at the same time will serve as an additional attraction to interest new European companies to the Island.

Regarding talent, our focus has been one of facilitating the collaboration of the industry with the education sector, from the Academy to the public schools, to identify the needs of the priority sectors and align the Academy to adjust to those needs. We start by sitting everyone at the same table and having a conversation about the trends they are seeing in their operations and in their global competitors. This way, they were able to understand first-hand the efforts that the Academy is promoting. Everyone is on board: from technology companies to pharmaceuticals and from the Department of Education to most universities.

As follow-up, we are creating a working group to coordinate these efforts and move forward the recommendations that are being identified. Although we are just beginning, we have already seen some positive results, with the great effort of the Rector of the University of Puerto Rico of Carolina proposing a curriculum in Mechatronic Engineering, which is considerably aligned with what the manufacturing industry has demanded; the support of the Secretary of Education; and the collaboration of the Federal
Secretary of Education. We hope that this is the beginning of many changes that will allow us to develop an educational sector adjusted to the reality of the industry, not only in Puerto Rico level, but globally.

These issues that we worked on are part of a competitiveness model that rules our approach and the trip to Europe was a confirmation that we are on the right track, but it was also a sign that we must have urgency, as the world is turning fast, and we cannot be left behind. In addition, it confirms that, now more than ever, we must have our eyes on the whole world and keep an ear on the ground, because this is the only way we will we be able to anticipate and react quickly to core issues and that will allow us to become the competitive jurisdiction that we all aspire to be.