Economic Development: Gov't will help workers throughout the transition process
SAN JUAN – Economic Development Secretary Manuel Laboy announced Thursday that he activated the agency's resources to help Roche Holding Puerto Rico workers during the “transitional labor process” as well as finding a new tenant for the facilities in the southern coastal town of Ponce. The pharmaceutical company announced it will close its Puerto Rico plant next year.
“We are very sorry about this news, as Roche has an almost 50-year track record in Puerto Rico,” Laboy said in a media release. “Although the closure will be carried out gradually and is expected to culminate in the third quarter of next year, our Labor Development Program [PDL by its Spanish initials] staff is in talks with the company to coordinate the Economic Development & Commerce Department's [DDEC by its Spanish initials] State Unit for Displaced Workers and Employers [UETDP by its Spanish initials] services, to guide approximately 200 workers in the transition process in search of new job opportunities. "
Laboy further noted that even with the past years ’challenges, the island’s manufacturing sector has remained strong, thanks to multiple expansions that have been announced since 2017, and the arrival of several companies on the island.
“In December 2019, employment in this sector reached 75,300, the highest figure since 2014,” Laboy said.
“On the other hand, and despite the Covid-19 crisis, we anticipate that Puerto Rico will continue on the path of growth in manufacturing, bio-pharmaceuticals, and medical and aerospace devices, both for expansions that we are supporting, as well as the arrival of new companies that have already shown interest in investing on the island, thanks to the support of the federal government and the worked carried out by Invest Puerto Rico, ”he said, referring to the island's public-private economic development partnership.
He further noted that the government's commitment is to continue these efforts and achieve an uptick in several economic sectors that have been impacted by the pandemic. Laboy stressed that after last week’s visit by White House officials, interest has already been expressed by several investors to settle on the island.
According to Edna Jiménez, general manager of operations in Ponce, where glucose test strips are manufactured, after a thorough evaluation the decision was made according to the market’s need to streamline operations and optimize global manufacturing, from three to two plants. Production will be transferred to existing manufacturing plants in Indianapolis and Mannheim, Germany.
“We are very grateful to our team and appreciate the achievements made at our plant in Ponce, which has supported the manufacture of Roche Diabetes Care blood glucose measurement test strips for nearly five decades,” Jiménez said in the release. “We are committed to supporting all employees during the transition phase, as well as helping them find a new job. To this end, we look forward to working closely with the DDEC and other relevant stakeholders in Puerto Rico. "
Laboy noted that the DDEC will have a direct and regular dialogue, both with local management as well as with corporate officials.
“While we understand the corporation's reasons for consolidating the manufacture of test strips for glucose measurement in Indianapolis and Mannheim, Germany, the truth is that Puerto Rico has the qualities to ensure that other products and / or technologies can be manufactured on our island competitively. We will make the necessary arrangements to explore this possibility, ”Laboy concluded.
Read Invest Puerto Rico CEO Rodrick T. Miller’s column in www.worldfinance.com.