Invest Puerto Rico seeks to attract bioscience and technology companies
Its ‘Game Changers, Welcome Home’ campaign seeks to position Puerto Rico as a global center of innovation
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In order to attract investment and new companies from the technology and bioscience, pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturing industries, the organization Invest Puerto Rico (InvestPR) continues with its ‘ Game Changers, Welcome Home’ campaign.
“The ‘ Game Changers, Welcome Home ‘ initiative seeks to position Puerto Rico as a global center of innovation. It is an invitation to companies and talent that want to come and bring capital to invest in companies in Puerto Rico or bring innovative businesses that join those that are here,” explained Ella Woger-Nieves, Interim Chief Executive Officer (CEO, in English) of InvestPR, a non-profit organization created by law to attract investment and new businesses to the island.
“It is also an invitation to Puerto Rican talent who lives outside of Puerto Rico and who wants to return to the island,” added the executive.
The campaign, which began last November with $6 million in federal funds from Community Development Grant-Based Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR), positioned Puerto Rico in digital media, specialized traditional media -such as Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg News , Harvard Business Review and Forbes – billboards and promotional signs at certain airports in the United States.
The ads are seen in key markets, including California and US East Coast states from New York and Massachusetts to North Carolina and Virginia. “If we analyze the economic sectors where Puerto Rico is best positioned to attract investment, such as pharmaceutical manufacturing, biosciences and technology, it is in these markets that the companies in these sectors are concentrated,” explained Woger-Nieves. The Wunderman Thompson Puerto Rico advertising agency was in charge of developing the creative content of the campaign, while the US agency DCI carried out the advertising guidelines in US media.
Woger-Nieves mentioned that, as part of the initiative, the advantages that Puerto Rico has as a destination for investors are highlighted: highly trained, educated and bilingual human capital; the business and innovation ecosystem that has developed on the island in recent years; the multimillion-dollar investment in infrastructure that is made with federal funds; the tax incentives available and the geographical location of the island, which serves as a link in markets in the United States and Latin America.
“The talent that the markets have is the most important factor that companies evaluate when relocating or expanding to a market,” highlighted the executive, who highlighted that there are many people with experience in pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturing due to the large presence that there have been such companies on the island.
He added that in Puerto Rico “there is a very active ecosystem of innovation and entrepreneurship and the campaign wants to highlight it.” With its incubators, accelerators, co-working spaces and other business support organizations, for Woger-Nieves, Puerto Rico is a collaborative ecosystem, with networking opportunities. “For a technology company, this is very important because it gives them access to collaborators, to capital, to connect with like-minded individuals and companies and exchange ideas,” said Woger-Nieves.
Despite the fragility of the electrical system and the high operational costs, the spokeswoman assured that they will attend to this with federal funds that are destined for the island. “The reason we highlight the arrival of billions of federal dollars in infrastructure improvements is that they see Puerto Rico’s commitment to improving its electrical power system,” she said.
He added that, with these challenges related to electricity service, “companies with an interest in establishing renewable energy companies approach us and we tie them to companies that need energy solutions.”
The executive thus alluded to one of the functions of InvestPR: to serve as an initial point of contact for investors and companies interested in relocating or expanding operations to the island. The organization, which was created to promote Puerto Rico abroad as an investment destination, also provides guidance and connection services to foreign companies with the government, municipalities, professional organizations and other entities that can facilitate their entry into the island.
Likewise, the entity works hand in hand with the Department of Economic Development and Commerce to, for example, develop incentive packages according to the needs of each investor, or with the Industrial Development Company (PRIDCO, for its acronym in English) to identify commercial and industrial real estate options for companies moving to the island.
As part of its efforts to attract potential investors, InvestPR -which has 23 employees and is based in the Convention District-, participates in conferences and conventions, mostly in the United States, such as the Bio International Convention, which will take place this month in San Diego, California, and which, according to Woger-Nieves, is one of the largest biotech events in the world.
He reported that, after the first six months of the campaign, “we have already seen a significant increase in awareness of the island as an investment destination and a huge increase in visits to our website by investors seeking information. This translates into the generation of opportunities and prospects with interest in the Puerto Rico market.”
The executive added that attracting a new company or business to the island can take between six months and two years, so the impact of the campaign will be seen in the medium and long term. She clarified that, due to the automation processes in companies, the pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers that it seeks to attract no longer require as many jobs as they did 30 years ago. “Today they are smaller companies, not with a thousand employees, but between 100 and 500 employees. Technology, programming, software , artificial intelligence, and cybersecurity companies also tend to be smaller,” she explained.
Even so, he highlighted the importance of Puerto Rico being able to attract and retain companies and investors from abroad, instead of only depending on local investment. “In order to have sustainable economic development, attracting and injecting capital and bringing companies is very important because it adds capital that was not on the market and generates jobs and innovation,” said Woger-Nieves.
As an example, he said that, between January 2021 and January 2022, InvestPR got three new pharmaceutical companies to establish themselves in Puerto Rico: CytoImmune in Toa Baja, Ocyonbio in Aguadilla, and Aurobindo in Caguas. Together, these represent the creation of 800 jobs and capital investments amounting to $400 million.
Looking ahead, the interim CEO revealed that, in addition to promoting the island in the United States, “we are going to focus on select markets in Europe, such as Germany, where there is a concentration of bioscience companies, and other markets that we are evaluating to then include in our promotional efforts.”
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