What is the role of the chamber in representing companies in the industrial sector?
As an organization that represents the production sector, we help companies do business. This revolves around competitiveness, helping build an appropriate investment environment, generating employment, producing and selling high-quality products with added value, and competing with the world. We are responsible for helping to facilitate these things within the business environment so companies can grow. Facing the fourth industrial revolution, we have to help build the industry of the future. This has to do with innovation, entrepreneurship, and building the appropriate environment. In order to represent the interest of our members, we propose policies and work closely with the government to help create the conditions required by industrial policy in Costa Rica. We see policy as actions that help enhance the conditions of the country, starting with research, development, and human resource development, some of our strongest assets in Costa Rica but for which we need to build strategic alliances.
How does the chamber help local companies develop and engage with international manufacturers?
We have a special free zone regime with companies from different sectors. For example, we have the medical device cluster, which is important in Costa Rica and where leading companies manufacture products that are exported to the world. It is important to get the local companies engaged so they can play an important role as suppliers of those companies in order to add value to their manufacturing process. High added value is the most important contribution to our economy and helps keep companies in Costa Rica. We work together with Procomer and CINDE to help local companies engage with the free-zone manufactures. At the same time we help those companies develop their own export capacity. They supply companies with products and services in the free-zone regime and are then able to achieve export capacity on their own and export to the world. We will start building an industrial park in the coming months where we intend to have a second facility of the Chamber of Industries focused on education and human resources training to help SMEs grow, while also establishing the industries of the future. With this park we will grant facilitation, technology support, permit process assistance, and proximity to infrastructure, the airport, and free-zone companies so they can sell them products and services.
What are the benefits and challenges of establishing an industry in Costa Rica?
Costa Rica has a great environment for business, though we need to face up to some challenges. Permits are still a bottleneck we need to improve. The government needs to understand that the development of the country has been achieved by creating those conditions for companies to get properly and speedily established. Many of the challenges have to do with the generation of employment. The Costa Rican economy is growing at an average level of 4% per year; it grew at 7-8% years ago. If we go back and recreate those conditions, we can generate more employment, exports, growth, and income. We need to add value to agricultural sectors. To do so, we need to innovate and think big. To make things happen we need to work as a team.
How do you see the transformation of the industrial sector in Costa Rica in five years?
I do not necessarily see the industry today as that of the future. For that reason it is extremely important that we innovate. Costa Rica has a diversified economy today; however, we do not see a bright future without a strong industrial sector. The industrial sector of the future has not yet been created. The speed of technology is going to take us through innovation and new economic activities. This is why higher added value is extremely important, as well as competitiveness, productivity, and the capacity of human resources and a strong educational system.