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Costa Rica has in recent years become a hotbed for medical device OEMs that serve the Latin America market, and with that come suppliers to those OEMs. The most recent expansion announcement comes from molder and contract manufacturer GW Plastics (Bethel, VT), which has established a majority-owned joint venture with Corprosemm Corp. (Cartago, Costa Rica).

Clare Goldsberry

June 9, 2011

5 Min Read
GW Plastics opens Costa Rica plant

Costa Rica has in recent years become a hotbed for medical device OEMs that serve the Latin America market, and with that come suppliers to those OEMs. The most recent expansion announcement comes from molder and contract manufacturer GW Plastics (Bethel, VT), which has established a majority-owned joint venture with Corprosemm Corp. (Cartago, Costa Rica). The joint venture, GW Plastics Cartago, is located in the Cartago-Techno Park Free Trade Zone, 16 miles southeast of San Jose, Costa Rica.

"We are delighted to form a partnership with Corprosemm and are committed to meeting the global outsourcing needs of our healthcare customers," said President and CEO Brenan Riehl. "A manufacturing location in Costa Rica will allow us to more effectively support our customers in Latin America."

Greenfield or partner

Larry Bell, vice president of business development and marketing for GW Plastics, told PlasticsToday that the company has been asked to have a presence in Costa Rica for quite a few years by its healthcare customers in that region, but were conflicted as to how to do that.  "Typically we go the greenfield route, but since this is outside the United States, we have advantages in a joint venture," Bell explained. "We found Corprosemm, a good company already there with contacts in place, experienced in plastic and healthcare and an existing building to give us a nice jumpstart. There are always different ways to do this, but finding a good partner enables to satisfy our customers' immediate programs in Costa Rica made it much more advantageous."CostaRica.gif

Costa Rica

Corprosemm, an injection molder and contract manufacturer located in the Cartago-Techno Park Free Trade Zone, was founded by a number of former healthcare OEMs' executives including Magin Mora, who along with his partners, have an extensive background in the plastics and medical device market.

"Our experience acquired during many years in the healthcare industry will support GW's decision to enhance its global presence with this manufacturing operation," said Mora in a prepared statement. "We are absolutely confident in the success of this business partnership."

Room to grow

The facility at present is limited in size and currently has only three machines, with a capacity to hold 4-5 presses, "just to get us started," Bell said. GW is investing approximately $3 million in the construction of a new 33,000-sq-ft facility that will be ready for occupancy early next year. Construction of the new facility located in the same business park is underway and will be capable of supporting the long-term manufacturing needs in the region. GW's new facility will be capable of expanding to 44,000-sq-ft depending on business requirements.

Bell estimates that the new facility will ultimately hold approximately 20 machines ranging from 50-200 tons, "the typical sweet spot" for GW, but larger presses will be considered as business dictates. Ultimately, GW plans to have about 100 employees at the new plant.

"We're very much into standardization throughout the GW organization so this plant will look much like our others with the same type of Engel injection molding machines, 13486 certified - a true GW facility, not just a name on the front door," stressed Bell. "The new Costa Rica plant will maintain the uniform look and feel of the GW Plastics that our customers are used to dealing with. In the long run our business model of being standardized will be a strategic advantage for us."

"With our steadfast commitment to standardization and quality, GW Cartago will have the same approach to manufacturing as our other locations," said Arthur Bennert, GW's vp and COO. "Our systematic approach to scientific molding, automation and lean manufacturing coupled with Corprosemm's medical device experience will allow us to offer unparalleled manufacturing support to our healthcare customers in the region."

GW also  has plants in Royalton, VT; San Antonio, TX; Tucson, AZ; Querétaro, Mexico; and Dongguan, China. GW's plant in Tucson, AZ, serves primarily medical device OEMs in Northern Mexico, and is about 75% medical at that facility. [Read the GW Plastics Plant Tour]

Costa Rica says "bienvenidos" to medical OEMs

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Costa Rica flag

A number of medical companies have established facilities in Costa Rica over the past decade, including Baxter Healthcare, which has been in that country since 1987, manufacturing IV sets and other devices, and has 1162 employees in a 176,900-sq-ft facility. Boston Scientific has had operations there since 2004, and employs 1500 people at its 104,500-sq-ft plant, with a new 280,000-sq-ft facility planned. Hospira, which came to Costa Rica in 1999, has a 500,000-sq-ft facility with 2400 employees. That company recently announced a $21 million investment in a new addition to the operation in Global Park, Heredia, Costa Rica, and will add 250 employees. [Read more about medical OEMs setting up in Costa Rica]

Bell added that it appears that many of their medical device OEM customers have by-passed Mexico for a number of reasons. "Costa Rica is a bit better environment in which to do business and there's a good, educated workforce there," he said. "We're following what our customers need and as they consolidate with global contract manufacturers, they want suppliers that are near to their facilities to support their markets regionally. We adapt and follow their strategy."

About the Author(s)

Clare Goldsberry

Until she retired in September 2021, Clare Goldsberry reported on the plastics industry for more than 30 years. In addition to the 10,000+ articles she has written, by her own estimation, she is the author of several books, including The Business of Injection Molding: How to succeed as a custom molder and Purchasing Injection Molds: A buyers guide. Goldsberry is a member of the Plastics Pioneers Association. She reflected on her long career in "Time to Say Good-Bye."

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