Contact the Central American Group to begin starting up a manufacturing facility in Costa Rica in the Green Park Free Zone.
The Central American Group: Today, we have Monica Umaña with us. She’s the general manager for Foreign Investment at Procomer, which is in Costa Rica, and it’s the government export and foreign investment promotion organization. Today, our conversation is about investing in Costa Rica. Monica, how are you today?
Monica Umaña: Good, Steve. Very good. Nice to speak with you again.
The Central American Group: Could you tell our audience a little about yourself and the organization you’re working for?
Monica Umaña: Sure, absolutely. Thank you, Steve, for this opportunity. As you said before, my name is Monica Umaña. I am the manager for Foreign Direct Investment at Procomer. Procomer is an entity that was created in 1996. We are responsible for the export promotion and the foreign direct investment attraction to Costa Rica.
The Central American Group: So, you must be excited. This is a new position for you. How are you acclimating to your new role?
Monica Umaña: It is new, and you know me. I have been working with foreign direct investment for the past eleven years, so I’m thrilled. It’s a big challenge, but I’m pleased because I think we have a very nice team inside Procomer, so we are creating a new unit to promote investing in Costa Rica, and we have the rest of the team working with us. So, it’s amazing.
Central American Group: I’m glad to hear that. We have a few questions to ask so you can give us more detailed information about your organization and investing in Cosa Rica. What is the main objective of the new foreign investment agency launched by Procomer?
Monica Umaña: Yes, absolutely. The main objective is to generate jobs, opportunities, and well-being for all the people. We are trying to create a sense of economic well-being in all the country’s regions. That’s really important for Procomer with very clear objectives that promote, attract, and retain investment that boost employment and exports with a solid and particular value proposition consistent with Costa Rica’s needs.
Central American Group: Given global trends, what are Procomer’s priorities with this new strategy as it applies to investing in Costa Rica?
Monica Umaña: That’s important, Steve, because, as I said before, we are trying to attract new foreign direct investment to Costa Rica, but, of course, that is linked with the generation of new employment and linkages economic growth throughout the country. We look to develop new strategic sectors to attract foreign direct investment towards the free trade regime. That’s also important— the new models for attracting foreign direct investment. We are trying to diversify the countries and projects that we are looking at opportunities for investing in Costa Rica. We are improving the investment climate to boost competitiveness and generate employment and linkages beyond the Greater Metropolitan Area (GMA). I think we are also trying to contribute to the development of human talent and to encourage a better social and environmental return through foreign direct investment.
Central American Group: You just mentioned the Greater Metropolitan Area. One of the priorities of the current administration that is in place in Costa Rica is to get a diversity of investments throughout the country geographically, and these would be things in the more rural areas. Please address that a little bit.
Monica Umaña: Absolutely. You know, we have been very successful in terms of sectors such as advanced manufacturing, medical devices, services in general, not only services, corporate services, but also digital technology. We’re trying to focus on looking for agricultural projects and production value added outside the Greater Metropolitan Area. We have a new legislation to promote investment outside of the GMA. So that’s something that we are working hard on. But I think it’s essential that we also are, as I said before, creating a new team that is going to have not only people that are going to work with the investment outside the great metropolitan area, but we’re going to keep our eyes with the sectors, the strategic sectors like the medical devices and manufacturing and services. So, we’re trying to balance this since we are looking for projects in the rural areas and working with the strategic sectors that are important to investing in Costa Rica.
Central American Group: What kind of resources does Procomer have at its disposal to execute the strategies you will put into place?
Monica Umaña: We have been the number one trade promotion agency in the world according to the International Trade Center, and we have more than 25 years of experience in the administration of the free zone regime in Costa Rica. That is one of the main incentives for the companies when they choose Costa Rica because we offer fiscal incentives. But we also have more than 26 trade promotion and investment offices worldwide with extensive knowledge and international experience, which will be implemented in new markets. We also have experience with several regional offices outside the Greater Metropolitan Area, with firsthand knowledge of the needs of the different areas outside the GMA. And we are adding new colleagues to the team in those regions. So, we’re trying to improve what we already have had in the past to facilitate investing in Costa Rica.
Central American Group: Why would a company want to go to Costa Rica? What are the advantages of being there? What does the country have to offer investors? Please give us some information about that.
Monica Umaña: Yes, absolutely. I think that’s one of the greatest parts of my job, talking about Costa Rica and why a company should visit and invest in the country. I believe concerning investment attraction, Costa Rica has transformed itself to become a global hub for foreign direct investment. The country consistently outperforms competitors due to its unique brand, strategic geographical location, and strong value proposition. We are the number one performer in the global foreign direct investment landscape. The country is one of the strongest and oldest democracies in the Western Hemisphere. We stand out as a beacon in the region due to our political and economic stability. We uphold and respect the rule of law and enforce elevated standards of protecting the environment and defense of human rights. We also understand well how these characteristics weigh on consumer market demands, which are growing. Consumers care more about how and where things are produced. Costa Rica has an excellent track record as a suitable and competitive destination for FDI, with more than 400 multinational companies with a presence in the country with dynamic and productive operations. The fact of these companies demonstrates the viability of investing in Costa Rica.
They are continuously and successfully evolving and reinvesting in Costa Rica, which targets the attraction of specific sectors. As we were talking now, one of the efforts being worked on now is semiconductors with the announcement from the US. According to the Chip Act, Costa Rica will receive funds soon. This involves activities that help enhance and accelerate our country’s technological transformation and consolidation in the value chain in MedTech, pharma, and biomedical research in the health sector we discussed previously. In addition, there are intensive corporate and digital services in the services sector. Important, as I said before, semiconductors, but electronic components, technology, enhanced agribusiness in manufacturing. These sectors are also vital.
As the newest member of the OECD, Costa Rica is a reliable and trustworthy partner for parties seeking to pursue investing in Costa Rica. Again, we have a new legislation to attract new business outside the Greater Metropolitan Area. But Costa Rica offers the free trade zone regime to national and foreign companies that wish to develop their operations in the country to encourage FDI, commercial exchange, and job creation. Last but not least, the talent of the Costa Rican people is one of the greatest attractions for investors due to its high specialization in many sectors.
Central American Group: One of the things that I’ve always found interesting is that Costa Rica disbanded its military at the end of the 1940s and has been putting the percentage of money that the GDP would have dedicated to the military to education and health. Could you mention a little bit about that?
Monica Umaña: Yes, absolutely. Since 1948, we haven’t had an army. That made us one of the most stable countries in Latin America. As I said before, we are the oldest democracy in the region. And as you mentioned, we dedicate 7% of our GDP to education, which makes investing in Costa Rica a good option. Many companies choose Costa Rica because we are not the cheapest country in the region, but we know the high quality of our labor pool and why the companies analyze and choose Costa Rica. Education is free and mandatory, and we have a robust system with technical high schools and national training institutes. Of course, universities are another significant resource regarding education, labor pool, and healthcare. That is a universal system. We dedicate 8% of our GDP to the system. Thanks to what you mentioned before, it’s a national coverage and ranked one of the best in Latin America.
Central American Group: Many of the companies that we speak to as a Central American Group are impressed when they go to Costa Rica by the amount of bilingual talent that can be found there. Can you tell us about the education process for languages in Costa Rica?
Monica Umaña: Yes, absolutely. We have been making considerable efforts to include English in the curricula. There are high schools and many technical high schools dedicated to bilingual careers, for instance, preparing people for the services sector. They have outstanding performance records. When I take potential investors to technical high schools, and they listen to the students’ presentations, I mean they are very well prepared and have excellent standards. The National Training Institute also has specific courses for bilingual people. So that’s one of the main challenges and also one of the main goals in terms of education, to prepare the people for the request of the companies, the new companies that are investing in Costa Rica
Central American Group: Well, thank you for answering our questions. One of the things that’s consistent about these podcasts is that people who listen to them have further questions arising from the information they hear. How can people listening to this podcast contact you with additional questions about investing in Costa Rica?
Monica Umaña: Absolutely, absolutely. I can give you my direct email. You can write to me at email@example.com, and I’ll be more than happy to answer any other questions. And, of course, to promote Costa Rica as a foreign direct investment destination.
Central American Group: OK, thank you again. We’re going to put all your contact information in the transcript section on our webpage, and we’re also going to put a link to your LinkedIn profile if it’s OK with you. Is that fine?
Monica Umaña: That’s fine, and I appreciate that, Steve.
Central American Group: OK, well, thank you for joining us. Have a great day, and lots of luck in your new position.
Monica Umaña: Thank you, Steve.
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