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Puerto Rican Entrepreneur Opens Plant In Ireland, Eyes Asian Market

Luis Rivera Oyola, 55, founded Manufacturing Technology Services Inc. and has a plant in Caguas and another in the Dominican Republic. Now he’s looking at Europe and Asia as sites for expansion.


October 19, 2000
Copyright © 2000 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Next month, Luis Rivera Oyola will become the first Puerto Rican to open his own manufacturing plant in Ireland. In three years, the founder of Manufacturing Technology Services Inc. (MTS) will open another plant in Asia to do electronic contract manufacturing for the European and Asian markets.

Rivera Oyola’s company, MTS, will log $30 million in annual sales this year and the 55-year-old chemical engineering graduate from the University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez Campus is in the final stages of negotiations to take over an existing plant in Ireland’s Shanon Free Zone.

"We expect to start operations next month with 60 employees," Rivera Oyola told CARIBBEAN BUSINESS, adding that the 30,000-square-foot Irish plant will represent a $3.6 million investment in the next three years and create more than 400 jobs in the same period.

The Economic Development Bank for Puerto Rico offered a $2.1 million guarantee to finance the Irish operation. By 2003, Rivera Oyola anticipates having a plant in Asia, possibly in China or Singapore.

"Judging by the rapid pace, the Asian facility could be a reality in 2002," he said. "Our plans to open a European plant were for 2001 and have been advanced by a year."

Rivera Oyola, who founded MTS four years ago and now has 150 employees, also opened a plant in the Dominican Republic in May to complement his local facility. The 28,000-square-foot plant, with 15 employees, is located in the Hainamosa Free Zone.

The DR facility represents a $200,000 investment and allows his Puerto Rico production to remain competitive by carrying out labor intensive processes in Hainamosa and the high technology procedures in Caguas. Within three years, the DR plant will represent a $1.5 million investment and produce 100 jobs, he said.

As a result of the two foreign operations, the Caguas plant will expand to 700 jobs within three years, Rivera Oyola said. By 2003, annual sales are expected to be more than $100 million with the local operations leading the way, followed by Ireland and by the DR. He estimated his investments to total about $12 million during that period.

The Caguas plant has now entered its third year of a six-year contract, to supply 1.3 million high tech energy consumption meters to the local, stateside and Canadian markets. The meters, created by Distribution Control Systems, based in St. Louis, Missouri, use computers operated from a power company’s headquarters to determine the amount of electricity consumed by clients. The Puerto Rico government has already installed these meters in several sectors.

Other products manufactured by MTS include the Internet Transaction Machines (ITM), which allow customers to pay bills by computer. In Puerto Rico, Banco Popular de Puerto Rico and Farmacias El Amal have installed 450 ITMs at local branches. The ITM, which Rivera Oyola said has great potential in Europe, was developed locally by Biometrics Imagineering.

There is also great potential to locally manufacture products created in Europe by technology companies for distribution in the U.S. market. "We already have foreign companies bringing us research on products to be developed. What I am doing is taking these R&D projects to the universities and when the products are ready to be manufactured, I will do them," Rivera Oyola said.

Last month, the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Co. (Pridco) gave MTS a $2.5 million grant as part of its science and technology initiative. The allocation will be used to create, in conjunction with the UPR Mayaguez Campus, facilities in the Balboa sector of Mayaguez for product development services. These will include prototype manufacturing and design support product tests, he said.

The initial facilities are to be completed in December, while the product test laboratories will be finished in six months, according to Rivera Oyola. This project will create 32 new jobs, mostly for highly skilled professionals, such as engineers, while professors and students will also work part time.

MTS has created two additional technological centers, at the Inter American University in Bayamon and at its own facilities in Caguas. At all three centers, engineers design products that are then manufactured in a limited amount for testing–the so-called prototypes. Once clients modify or approve, the enhanced product is manufactured and marketed.

MTS also has alliances with electronic giants Microsoft, International Business Machines (IBM) and Motorola for design and product development initiatives. "What we’re doing is leveraging. Our clients have a need and these companies have the engineers and technical staff to support these needs," Rivera Oyola said.

Rivera Oyola, who originally started his plant t for contract-manufacturing for companies that needed products on a temporary basis, has changed his strategy to match the times. The trend now is for companies to concentrate on R&D and to market and outsource manufacture and installation of their products.

Rivera Oyola, who holds a master’s degree in nuclear engineering and another in industrial management, is doing that and more. In addition, MTS designs or helps to design products. The third area he is focusing on is market distribution and services, which means delivering and installing the product.

What Rivera Oyola discovered was that despite his local growth, MTS needed to have a global presence. That is why he opened the DR plant and will open the Ireland and Asian plants.

"Puerto Rico is way behind and we must catch up quickly. We must be innovative and creative, we cannot stay back relying on the traditional ways of manufacturing," he said. "The challenge is for us to speed these activities. Puerto Rico is behind and our country’s economic future depends on the decisions we make today."

As an example, Rivera Oyola points to Ireland, which in the past four years lowered its unemployment rate from 13% to 4.5%. "We must establish a clearly defined strategy, involving the government and the private sector, to lower employment and we should talk in terms of say 96% employment and not continue to highlight ‘x’ percentage unemployment," he said.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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