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Puerto Rico’s Manufacturing Industry Normal But Alert

Sector has not been notified of production output increase caused by the World Trade Center attack


September 20, 2001
Copyright © 2001 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Even though nine out of the top 10 prescription drugs sold on the U.S. mainland are manufactured in Puerto Rico, there was little or no concern on the part of the island’s pharmaceutical industry that increased demand would exceed production capacity.

But Puerto Rico’s manufacturing industry was ready to increase production, if necessary, in response to the terrorists attack on New York’s World Trade Center, said several industry spokespersons to CARIBBEAN BUSINESS.

As of Friday, none of the company spokespersons interviewed by CB had received notifications in this regard. But investment advisors were already predicting that pharmaceutical drug companies would benefit once the stock market reopened. Among the stocks favored are Pfizer (PFE:NYSE), Merck (MRK:NYSE), Schering-Plough (SGP:NYSE) and medical devices companies such as Medtronic (MDT:NYSE). All of these companies have manufacturing operations in Puerto Rico.

"The chairman & CEO of Johnson & Johnson (J&J) Family of Companies in Caguas, Ralph Larsen, sent a notification to all J&J employees in Puerto Rico indicating that all actual company resources had been mobilized to be immediately available for rescue efforts," said Luis Rodriguez Argueso, J&J spokesperson in Puerto Rico. "The company will be able to provide medical and pharmaceutical supplies, as needed, and will assist in whatever way possible the U.S. government’s emergency needs."

J&J employees’ blood donations and financial contributions are made through AmeriCares, a nonprofit international disaster relief and humanitarian aid organization that provides immediate response to emergency medical needs.

"The organization will transport medical supplies and bandages to New York area hospitals, including New Brunswick, New Jersey’s Johnson Hospital, one of the best trauma facilities in the area," said Rodriguez Argueso.

J&J has been established in Puerto Rico since 1962. It has operations in the island, with a workforce of 3,600 employees. It is the second largest healthcare products manufacturer and the 10th largest private sector employer in Puerto Rico, according to CB’s 2001 Book of Lists. The companies manufacture Tylenol, Monistat, Imodium, K-Y Jelly, Motrin, Mylanta, Lactaid, and Band-Aid products in the island.

Several of Puerto Rico’s manufacturing industry members were surprised by the terrorist attack in the U.S. and Europe. For example, Pfizer Corp. General Manager of Sales in Puerto Rico & the Caribbean William Renzo was attending a company meeting in Florida and had not been able to return to the island by Friday. Joaquin Viso, president of MOVA Pharmaceutical Corp., was stranded in Europe and due to return on Friday evening.

A call to the local headquarters of Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS)–makers of Amoxilin and Buspar–revealed that operations were also proceeding normally.

"BMS plants are operating normally under the circumstances. As soon as air traffic is restored, we will resume transportation to our distribution centers in the U.S. Consumers should not be worried since we have product available to satisfy local needs," said BMS Public Affairs Director Carmen Judith Velez

Abbott Laboratories, with over 2,000 employees in its Barceloneta complex, announced it had made a $2 million donation to the Sept. 11th Fund, an agency created by United Way, New York Community Trust, American Red Cross, and AmeriCares. The company said it was also transporting blood to the affected areas and encouraging employees to make blood donations.

"Abbot people have been working with the affected hospitals to deliver the critical medical supplies that they need. Our customer service centers and warehouses continue to be open around the clock for emergency supply needs," said Miles D. White, Abbott’s Chairman and CEO.

Electronics manufacturer Hewlett-Packard’s (HP) production could be impacted in the future considering the amount of office technology equipment that was destroyed in the attack.

"It is foreseeable [that we will have a production increase in the future due to the attack] but so far we have not received any notification. Thankfully, HP’s New York offices were not affected by this tragedy and the company sent a notification that all its employees were safe," said Miguel Pereira, spokesperson for HP’s manufacturing operations in Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico’s pharmaceutical drug industry represents 25% of the island’s gross domestic product, generating over 114,000 direct and indirect jobs. Pharmaceutical product exports in 2000 reached $20.8 billion, with nine of the top selling U.S. prescription drugs manufactured in Puerto Rico.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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