In 1990 Costa Rica made the decision to implement the Free Trade Zone Regime, RZF as a development tool to support the production and export of products to international markets. The concept is to attract direct foreign investments of new companies to open facilities in the country in order to increase employment and the gross national product.
Costa Rica’s Free Trade Zone Regime, RZF, is enjoying great prosperity these days thanks to the increasing employment figures and the growth spurred by foreign companies expanding within the existing RZF parks and the emergence of new parks. The arrival of new companies in the country is the key factor for this recent prosperity.
According to the Foreign Trade Corporation of Costa Rica, PROCOMER, in 2011 there were 263 active companies operating in the free trade zones, and during 2015 the number grew 26% to 331 companies.
Some of the older RZF parks have been operating at 100% capacity, such as Zeta Cartago and the Zona Franca Metropolitana, and some of the newer projects such as La Lima and Solarium have tenants and they are negotiating with new companies arriving in the country.
PROCOMER’s new strategy is to offer multiple alternatives to foreign companies that are considering investing here and they have been encouraging developers to open new projects outside the central valley in less congested areas that are attractive to multinational companies.
One of the new projects being developed is CR Green Valley Grecia, which will have 10 hectares for companies operating under the RZF. The developer’s focus is to attract companies in the service sector because that’s where the greatest growth is occurring. Initially they will have 16 properties available, from 8,000 to 9,000 square meters each. To date one multinational company has confirmed its commitment to operate in the new RZF in Grecia.
The new RZF projects located outside of the Greater Metropolitan Area, GAM offer greater diversity to companies interested in investing in Costa Rica and the new locations are in line with the opening of the new container terminal in Limon and the new international airport in Orotina.
According to the World Free Zones Organization, World FZO, 39 new companies opened in Costa Rica last year and the location statistics indicate that 41% of companies operating under the RZF regime are in Heredia, 20% in Alajuela, 16% in San Jose, 14% in Cartago, 5% in Puntarenas, 3% in Limon and 1% in Guanacaste.
Costa Rica’s Coalition for Development Initiatives, CINDE, published that of the 39 new companies, the largest employers are in the Corporate Services sector, and 23 of these new companies are in RZF projects.
During 2015, these new companies generated 12,000 new jobs in the service sectors, including; life sciences, advanced manufacturing, light manufacturing and food production. According to CINDE and Comex, these multinational companies have spurred a 9.1% increase in employment, three times greater than the rest of private and public sectors.
A PROCOMER report titled the “Balance of Free Zones”; indicates that the average salary for a worker employed in one of the RZF’s is now $1551 US dollars per month. From 2011 to 2015 the average salary increased 7% and the number of workers has increased to 82,086 salaried employees, of which 40% are female.
The report also confirms that the Free Trade Zone Regime implemented by the government twenty six years ago is socially profitable, and for every $1 dollar of incentive provided by Costa Rica to companies operating in the RZF’s, the country and its citizens have received $6 dollars in return benefits.
The writer, Tom Rosenberger has lived and worked in Costa Rica since 1993 and from his travels throughout the country inspecting property and construction he has acquired a wealth of knowledge about living and doing business in Costa Rica. If you would like to send Tom a message click here.