A year after announcing plans to invest $6 million to expand its Salinas operation, Illinois-based Pioneer Hi-Bred officially announced Wednesday the completion of the project that has already produced 40 of the total 100 jobs that will be created within the next 18 months.
The investment is split into $2.5 million to build and remodel the new facility and $3.5 million for the acquisition of machinery and equipment.
Government officials were on hand to inaugurate the company’s 22,000 square-foot addition that houses the island’s first bio-farming research lab.
“Puerto Rico is the perfect place to develop bio-agricultural research. The island has a regulatory framework similar to the U.S., an efficient transportation system, year-round harvest seasons, novel economic incentives, and available and highly educated workforce,” said Gov. Luis Fortuño during the ribbon-cutting ceremony in Salinas.
Hi-Bred, a subsidiary of DuPont, met the schedule it traced for itself in May 2010, when it went public with its plans to grow in Puerto Rico during the BIO International convention in Chicago.
“This new investment by Pioneer-Hi Bred marks a new stage in our history of industrial development, through the opening of the island’s first industrial bio-agricultural research laboratory,” said Jorge Junquera, executive deputy director of the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company.
Pioneer first established a presence in Puerto Rico in 1989 with a parent seed production facility. Today, the company’s Salinas operation on the south coast of the island has about 130 permanent employees and hires more than 1,000 temporary workers at times during the growing season. The new laboratory will be located within a few miles of Pioneer’s existing 30,000-square-foot facility.
Geoff Graham, research director for the Americas of Pioneer Hi-Bred, said this laboratory will make it possible to select superior genetic materials for farmers in the U.S. and worldwide.
“This advanced lab technology will make viable the development of seed products that improve agricultural production capacity and increase crop yields, while making them resistant to pests,” said Graham.
Through this lab, Pioneer-Hi Bred aims to develop seeds for corn, soybeans, sorghum and sunflower that are resistant to pests, thus substantially reducing the use of pesticides in agriculture.
Pioneer Hi-Bred is a biogenetics company dedicated to producing modified corn and soybean seeds, which it sells around the world. In Puerto Rico, Pioneer is one of several companies involved in genetically modified seed production, along with Monsanto, which has operations in Juana Díaz and Isabela.
Pioneer’s operations have a direct impact on the local economy of about $8.8 million a year as a result of its purchases of goods and services including raw materials, professional services, technical services, transportation, among others. This laboratory also increase the volume of local purchases by 15 percent, government officials said.