The Puerto Rico Manufacturers Association (PRMA) is a private, voluntary, non-profit organization established in 1928, with the purpose of uniting all Puerto Rico’s manufacturers and service industries into a strong and effective body in order to further their mutual interests as they relate to the private and public sectors of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
According to Francisco Garcia, the Association’s current Executive Vice President, the PRMA was in the forefront of Puerto Rico’s transformation from an agricultural-based economy to an industrial one. “And that accelerated significantly during the 1960s, 70s, and 80s,” he says. “We are now basically an economy that has almost 50 percent of its GDP (Gross Domestic Product) in the manufacturing base.” In fact, out of a total population of 3.5 million, approximately 250,000 Puerto Ricans work in the island’s manufacturing sector.
“It is the most important economic sector of Puerto Rico and it’s been so for many, many years,” Garcia says. “We have moved into very advanced manufacturing, logistics, services, aerospace, pharmaceuticals, bio-tech, medical devices, and infomatics (the science of computer information systems). We have manufacturing from small entities that service larger, multi-national companies to some of the largest pharma products in the world that are made in Puerto Rico. The largest bio-tech facility that Amgen has, worldwide, is located in Puerto Rico. So, we have a little bit of everything.”
The PRMA has approximately 1,200 members in two major categories: manufacturing entities and service entities – the companies that supply products and services to the manufacturers. Garcia says that the Association communicates to its members through a variety of methods including meetings and seminars that take place regularly throughout the island, and social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook.
The PRMA’s mandate is to help foster its members’ competitiveness, provide programs and services to help develop local talent, improve the quality of manufactured products, and advocate for its members’ legislative agenda both in the island’s legislature and in Washington, D.C. “We are very active in visiting the Capitol,” Garcia says. “We were up there once a month, on average over the last year, because of the impact that Washington decisions have on Puerto Rico.”
Garcia says that the PRMA also reaches out beyond Puerto Rico to other countries in Central America and the Caribbean, helping to foment the export of products and services from its members to those other markets. “We are very actively involved in Guatemala and the Dominican Republic, meeting with their manufacturing associations,” he says. “And we sponsored three visits to Cuba in the last year, trying to understand and evaluate the opportunities for business development in Cuba, and making sure that our members can look at what future opportunities are there.”
The PRMA’s staff oversees the Association’s major components. “One of those components is service to our members,” Garcia explains. “We have about 20 active committees focused on specific areas of endeavor, for example: environment, permits, transportation, supply chain, taxes, etc. So that component supports our members and committees. Another section is marketing and sales development, which oversees the conferences and seminars that provide updates to our service members. We have an administrative staff and an IT Director, and a communications and PR person who interacts with the press. We also have a legal counsel who provides services to companies that ask for guidance. And lobbying and advocacy in Washington and the local legislature is one of our main thrusts; making sure what our members want and need in terms of dealing with new laws and regulations.”
While the government of Puerto Rico has been hamstrung, recently, by a severe budget deficit, Garcia says that the manufacturing sector has remained relatively unscathed. “Manufacturing and services, to a great extent, have not been affected directly from the government’s budget shortfall, except for those entities that directly provide some services to government agencies. But, to a great degree, we are not directly correlated with the structure of the government; we basically are in the business environment and the cycle of business in Puerto Rico has been pretty much separated from that. We are being affected a little bit by the reduction in population that Puerto Rico has sustained over the last five or six years, in terms of less population growth and people moving to the mainland. That has affected some members in the service sector.”
In fact, Garcia maintains that manufacturing in Puerto Rico is on an upwards trajectory. “Manufacturing went through a consolidation factor, globally, some years ago, but right now it’s pretty stable, and we are now growing sectors like aerospace and defense,” he reports. “Puerto Rico offers a unique proposition because we are a U.S. territory with U.S. citizens, so we meet all the requirements for providing products and services for the aerospace and defense sector. And we have a high capability of graduating engineers and scientists, and that has made that sector grow. We’ve been able to attract entities like Lufthansa who set up their western hemisphere maintenance pod in Puerto Rico,” he adds.
Garcia, himself, had 30 years of experience in Puerto Rico’s manufacturing sector before leading the PRMA and he sees the Association as a key player in the island’s continual evolution as a manufacturing powerhouse. “Our members are definitely amongst the most competitive manufacturing entities in the world,” he states. “They have kept abreast of technology changes and continue to improve their productivity in order to maintain competitiveness. And our conferences and conventions and seminars provide unique opportunities to attract and do business in Puerto Rico with our members. We have continued to evolve to meet the challenges of the new world economy and to develop our people and our systems in order to provide the best environment in terms of manufacturing and services.”
AT A GLANCE
WHO: The Puerto Rico Manufacturers Association
WHAT: A trade organization representing the island’s manufacturing sector
WHERE: Guaynabo, Puerto Rico