Coyol Free Zone (CFZ) in Costa Rica is the overall winner in Investment Monitor’s inaugural Economic Zone Sustainable Recovery Strategies Awards. The awards recognise economic zones that have put policies in place to meet the challenges created by the Covid-19 pandemic and support recovery afterwards.

CFZ is recognised in five out of seven subcategories in the awards. In addition to being crowned the overall winner, CFZ has topped the Covid Relief Packages and Sustainability and ESG categories, as well as taking the runner-up spot for Digitalisation and receiving an honourable mention for Aftercare Support and Local Impact. Judges noted the zone’s ability to attract investment and reinvestment from clients in high value-added exports during challenging economic times. CFZ has generated more than 16,500 high-quality jobs since it was opened, 55% of which have gone to women. It now accounts for 58% of medical device exports in Costa Rica.

On receiving this award, CFZ general director Carlos Wong said: “This means not only a recognition of the effort that we’ve been putting in through the past few years, but also an important point about the resiliency of Coyol Free Zone during the Covid pandemic. Costa Rica is also a winner in this position.”

Where CFZ offers expertise and experience

CFZ’s success stems from the support and services that it provides to on-site companies. It offers a one-stop shop specialising in life sciences industry, with an ecosystem of suppliers and contractors, for which the free zone provides services for all pre-construction, execution, budget control and delivery processes.

Other on-site capabilities include packaging, moulding, extrusion and sterilisation. The presence of on-site sterilisation services, along with specialist logistics companies, means that medical devices can be exported directly from Costa Rica. This provides companies with significant savings when it comes to production times, transportation and warehousing.

CFZ offers comprehensive support to companies wishing to establish operations within the zone. This includes advice on recruitment, where it provides evaluation and personnel selection services to streamline processes. The zone also offers an online database with more than 90,000 users who aspire to find work within CFZ. In addition to these services, the free zone organises virtual job fairs, for which it provides experienced recruiters.

The Covid pandemic and Coyol

During the Covid-19 pandemic, CFZ introduced a series of measures to protect investments into the free zone. Throughout 2020, not only all of its construction projects go ahead, but they also built the largest number of square metres in the Park’s history.

At the beginning of the pandemic, CFZ created a commission to help those active on the site to tackle the many challenges caused by the virus and the related lockdowns. The commission was made up of external advisors, directors of companies located within the park, as well as the free zone’s administration team. The key goal of the commission was to provide a safe environment within CFZ and ensure compliance with the regulations imposed by the Costa Rican Ministry of Health and the country’s government. The commission also worked towards promoting business continuity, and preparing the Park for any further crises.

All of these measures impressed Investment Monitor’s judges, and when it comes to the specifics that clinched CFZ the overall winner award, the following was also cited:

Academia Coyol: CFZ hosts a free online academy that trains workers in the life sciences industry. It currently has more than 4,600 students enrolled.

Online recruitment and training services: The virtual recruitment programme led to more than 1,500 staff being hired in 2020.

Attracting US$52m in investment: In 2020, Microvention-Terumo, Smith & Nephew, CooperSurgical, SMC and Teradyne among other companies invested in CFZ.

Measures to protect workers: In collaboration with local laboratory Laboratorios Echandi, CFZ provided free Covid testing for their employees, as well as introducing cashless electronic payment for the exclusive transportation network operated by CFZ, which serves more than 12,000 employees daily. The free zone also supported remote working initiatives, as well as support bonuses to families in need.

Focus on sustainability: CFZ is the first ‘smart park’ in Costa Rica, providing investors with a fully redundant electrical grid (with underground connectivity to main substation and three additional substations working as a back-up), intelligent digital meters and renewable sources.

Local impact: CFZ donated equipment to the Costa Rican Institute for Research and Education in Nutrition and Health to carry out PCR tests, as well as 36 sliding glass doors to the Alajuela Public Hospital, and 50,000 face masks to the Costa Rican Red Cross.

CFZ is now host to 31 leading global life sciences and advanced manufacturing companies, including seven of the world’s top 30 medical device companies (Medtronic, Abbott, Philips, Cardinal Health, Microvention-Terumo, Smith & Nephew and Hologic). Coyol’s high standards, life sciences specialisation and geographic location helped the free zone stand out in pre-Covid times, but the manner in which it reacted to the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic showed the level of care and dedication it has towards all of the companies and employees present in the park.

For more information about Coyol Free Zone, visit its website.