By Adam Sege — McClatchy Newspapers
WASHINGTON — Monsanto, the agricultural technology company, plans to announce on Wednesday a $4.3 million expansion of its research and development labs in Puerto Rico, a boost to the island’s economy.
Monsanto executives plan to expand one of the company’s two Puerto Rico work sites, constructing a 20,000-square-foot home for new research and development laboratories. Monsanto’s research on the island focuses on corn and cotton, and it also grows corn and soybean seeds for the mainland United States.
The expansion will create 45 jobs and replace temporary facilities with permanent ones, said Kimberly O’Brien, a Monsanto spokeswoman.
The announcement sends a positive signal about the U.S. territory’s economy, particularly after other recent life science investments, said Jose Perez-Riera, Puerto Rico’s commerce secretary.
“If you have one company that decides to do it, it may just be that that company decided to do it,” Perez-Riera said during a visit to Washington for a biotech conference. “If you start getting others, it means that the business climate for that type of activity works.”
At last year’s biotech conference, Pioneer Hi-Bred, an Iowa-based seed company, announced that it was adding a second research and development center in Puerto Rico.
Since Gov. Luis Fortuno took office in 2009, he’s implemented several programs aimed at guiding the island from a manufacturing economy to what Perez-Riera calls an “innovation economy.” New tax incentives, in particular, are catching the interest of outside companies, Perez-Riera said.