The Central American Group: Hello. Welcome to everybody that’s listening to this podcast. Today we have David Hard with us. David is with a company called Brisk Heat that is out of Columbus, Ohio. David has an interesting story to tell us this morning. He went through the process of starting up a manufacturing facility in Costa Rica. He’s the manufacturing project manager for a company called Brisk Heat, and he just went through the process of starting up a manufacturing facility in Costa Rica. But without saying more, I’ll let David introduce himself and tell us about Brisk Heat.
David Hard: Yes, thank you so much. I’m David Hard. I’ve been with Brisk Heat for about six years now. I’ve been tasked with the excellent opportunity to be involved in starting up a manufacturing facility in Costa Rica. So, one thing that’s unique about Brisk Heat is that we’ve been around for about 75 years and make a unique product. We make industrial heating solutions for various industries, but a lot for semiconductor applications. It was an exciting opportunity for us to take this production down to Costa Rica.
The Central American Group: Well, David, just to give the audience an idea of what we’re going to do, we’re going to talk about the process of starting up a manufacturing facility in Costa Rica because you’ve just gone through that. What we hope that you’ll be able to do is provide some information that’ll be instructive for people that are considering doing the same thing. But first of all, what factors led Brisk Heat to choose Costa Rica over other existing options before we get into the actual process?
David Hard: So, when we were looking at new production facilities, we returned to the fact that we have our facility here in Columbus, and then we have our manufacturing facilities in Vietnam that we started about ten years ago. One of the things that really drove us to look at the possibility of starting up a manufacturing facility in Costa Rica was our new parent company, the NIBE Group, which actually guided us to improve our business continuity. And by doing that, we wanted to find a location somewhere in North America or Latin America to supply our North American market better. We looked at starting up a manufacturing facility in Costa Rica and several other Latin American countries. We landed in Costa Rica because getting to North and South America was easy. But they had an excellent, readily available skilled labor force, which was very promising for us as we moved into a new country.
The Central American Group: Well, another thing that I wonder if you looked at as far as Costa Rica is concerned, there are a lot of free trade agreements with which you can export your goods to a number of different countries. Costa Rica, obviously, has got its political stability. But in addition to those things, what led your company to choose the Green Park Free Zone out of all the other options that are available to you in Costa Rica?
David Hard: When Green Park originally contacted us as a free trade zone to go into, they were one of the few parks that actually provided us an opportunity not just to take an existing building and retrofit it to our needs. They were actually able to be cost-competitive and build an entire facility for us and move into that fitted up exactly how we needed it. But an extra bonus was because that would take about nine months. We could move into one of the buildings they had on-site and start production earlier, which is critical for us because our training process can take up to a year to execute fully.
The Central American Group: Well, what has been the experience regarding starting up? Was it smooth? Did you hit any snags? Maybe you could elaborate on that.
David Hard: Yes, every company probably will go through this. You can plan all you want, but you’ll always hit a snag. So Green Park has made everything extremely easy from a building and an outfit standpoint. But then, some of the unexpected things we had occur was going through the environmental permit process and determining exactly how imports and exports work for Costa Rica through the US. And then, with a free trade zone, we were new to, we were working with Procomer. But in order for us to kind of really get through a lot of those unexpected surprises, we were able to partner with excellent organizations such as CINDE, Seal and Seal, and a bunch of other companies to really fine-tune what we needed to do when starting a manufacturing facility in Costa Rica and get answers very quickly.
The Central American Group: Now, what was it like going through the process of environmental permitting and dealing with import and export issues with Procomer? How were those organizations as far as addressing your needs?
David Hard: Yes, definitely, that was something new for us. So, since we didn’t have any boots on the ground, everything was still running through the US. We partnered with some local organizations like Cinde, which is excellent at bringing companies into Costa Rica. We also partnered with Seal and Seal, who knows a lot about environmental permitting. And then, we worked directly with Procomer to do virtual training. And all of that was extremely helpful for us to work through many of our bumps and snags as we went through the process.
The Central American Group: Tell us about the readily available labor force. Can you tell us your hiring process for starting up a manufacturing facility in Costa Rica?
David Hard: Yes, so Brisk Heat has a very rigorous training program. For us, finding excellent candidates is very crucial. We were able to partner with many local municipalities and networks like the INA Institution, which is the National Institute for Training, to place job applications everywhere. Then we were able to get very talented, very skilled employees right out of the gate. We’re able to pick up our training very quickly, and now we’re producing our product.
The Central American Group: Well, how was the training process? Was it something that was formulated in the home office, and then you transferred it down to your Costa Rican facility? Can you tell us a little bit about that?
David Hard: Yes, so we’ve had a training process that we use as our template when we moved into Vietnam. During that time frame, from about ten years ago to now, we’ve been able to fine-tune that, and then we actually had some of our US representatives go down and do onsite training in Costa Rica. So here at Brisket in the US. We have multiple nationalities covered all across our building. So, we were fortunate enough to have a Spanish-speaking manufacturing manager who could go down and support them and teach our Costa Rican workforce everything quickly in their native language.
The Central American Group: Just out of curiosity, I know this is not one of the things we discussed up front, but how much time did you spend starting up a manufacturing facility in Costa Rica personally?
David Hard: So right now, I come and go. I go down about once a month, once every six weeks for about a week at a time. The big benefit that we have is we like to let the local representatives actually run and manage everything. We just provide them with the tools they need, so we don’t spend tons of time down there unless they really need us to help support something.
The Central American Group: I know listeners will be very interested in this. What advice would you give others contemplating starting up a manufacturing facility in Costa Rica?
David Hard: Costa Rica is excellent, as every company knows you’re going to have up and downs, so partnering with the right people is definitely one of the best things you can do. I recommend working with CINDE to review all the paperwork and documentation to enter the country. And then, from there, they can help you connect to the right legal teams and review free trade zones, get you in contact with Procomer, and set up those training classes so you can learn a lot ahead of time. So that way, you’re not really surprised later. So definitely utilize the resources that Costa Rica provides. There is no charge for CINDE’s resources, so I would definitely say utilize everything you can from them.
The Central American Group: What about a legal team? Did you have legal support?
David Hard: Yes, we actually partner with BLP Legal, and they’ve been excellent. Every day I keep giving them more and more stuff to do, and so far, they still respond and say that everything’s going great.
The Central American Group: And then advice. In choosing a free trade zone partner, what would you say is important to look at when starting up a manufacturing facility in Costa Rica?
David Hard: For us, the partnership we’ve developed with Green Park and all the staff is very critical. We’ve been able to work very closely with them, and we’ve noticed that they want us to succeed just as much as we want to succeed. By doing that, we know that a good partnership has been formed. So definitely find a free trade zone that you feel confident with, and you know that they want your success just as much as you do.
The Central American Group: And what else would you recommend in terms of training classes that might be available to people in the position of starting up manufacturing operations in Costa Rica?
David Hard: Definitely look through Procomer’s website. They have lots of resources if you’re looking for anything about free trade zones. Talk to the free trade zone you’re looking into because they probably have different people they can connect you with. This includes contractors, vendors, and anything like that. Utilize any resource that you can get from Procomer, your free trade zone, and CINDE.
The Central American Group: I would add to that the Central American Group’s blog. We have lots of information about business in Costa Rica that people can take advantage of. When do you fully open up your operations in Costa Rica?
David Hard: So that’s a fun question. We actually hired our first employee back on September 22. As I mentioned earlier, our training process is approximately a year to get any of our cloth assembly associates trained to produce high-scale jackets. So, we hired our first production associates in December. We streamlined their training process and produced and shipped our first product in May of this year. So that’s been excellent for us.
The Central American Group: Wow. My understanding is in January when the operations are at full capacity, you will inaugurate the facility. Is that true?
David Hard: Yes. We plan to do our Grand Opening ceremony towards the end of January next year. We’ll be at approximately a third of our planned staff capacity because we can only bring on so much so quickly. But we’re planning to get to full capacity by the end of 2026 and provide around seven hundred jobs to the local area.
The Central American Group: Well, I’m sure that that’ll go very well with the locals as far as this is another thing that people ask us quite often, was your experience in finding the people that you need to be bilingual? Were they available to you?
David Hard: We actually partnered with an employment agency, Doris Peters and Associates. They were excellent at going out and seeking candidates for us, for our high-level positions, and for our senior staff. And then, from there, we were able to go through a couple of candidates, and we found excellent bilingual individuals. A lot of our other positions don’t require bilinguals, but we’re seeing that a lot of people can speak both Spanish and English. I’m in the process of learning Spanish. That way, I can help them a little more while I’m there. It’s been excellent to have a vast pool of bilingual candidates all over the place in our experience in starting up a manufacturing facility in Costa Rica.
The Central American Group: Well, David, this has been an interesting discussion, and it’s a topic that I’m sure is going to be of interest to a lot of our listeners. Typically, when we speak with somebody with your expertise, we like to ask them if they would be available, perhaps to answer questions from any of our listeners. Would that be something you’d be willing to do?
David Hard: I’d be open to emails, obviously. I travel often, so phones don’t always work for me. But for emails, I tend to respond pretty quickly.
The Central American Group: Okay. David, if you could tell us your email, and I’ll ensure that it’s in the transcript portion of the podcast, I’d appreciate it.
David Hard: Yes, so my email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Central American Group: Well, David, it’s been a pleasure talking with you, and hopefully, we’ll meet each other in person this coming January in Costa Rica.
David Hard: Sounds excellent. I’m looking forward to it.
The Central American Group: Thank you again for joining us.
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