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Puerto Rico explores semiconductor manufacturing potential

Creating a semiconductor manufacturing base in Puerto Rico was a key proposal from a working group – composed of members from academia, the private sector and government – convened by New Progressive Party Sen. Keren Riquelme to expand the industrial sector and create higher-paying jobs for university students in science, technology and engineering fields.

“Our geopolitical situation gives us an advantage that we need to capitalize on before industries that are reshoring decide to do so elsewhere,” Riquelme said. “Our human capital, graduates from universities with related studies, including around 9,625 STEM graduates, makes Puerto Rico an ideal location for establishing a world-class semiconductor manufacturing center.”

The semiconductor industry is one of the most profitable in the world. In 2022, it generated $601.7 billion, up from $595 billion the previous year.

To advance this proposal and others, chancellors from six universities on the island, including the University of Puerto Rico’s Mayagüez, Ponce and Bayamón campuses; Polytechnic University, Inter American University; and Ana G. Méndez University, as well as officials from the Puerto Rico Highway & Transportation Authority, the Permits and Endorsements Management Office, the Department Economic Development and Commerce (DDEC, in Spanish), the Department of Transportation and Public Works, the Engineers and Land Surveyors Association and the Builders Association, met at the Capitol for several hours to discuss concrete initiatives.

“The current geopolitical aspect, with communist China threatening Taiwan, the center of semiconductor manufacturing in the world, has prompted leaders in our nation to seek alternatives with the purpose of reclaiming leadership in this vital technological field because almost everything relies on these chips,” Riquelme said. 

“This makes more incentives for jurisdictions like Puerto Rico viable. With our skilled workforce, renewed infrastructure and geographic position, Puerto Rico can attract companies like Samsung, Intel and Qualcomm, among others,” the senator added.

She also noted that she would be contacting DDEC Secretary Manuel Cidre to develop incentive platforms for this sector.

The lawmaker made the statements at the conclusion of the sequel to the Bridges of Permanence forum, aimed at retaining engineering graduates to work on the island and promoting STEM careers. 

For October, the Manufacturing Coincident Indicators Index (IICM, in Spanish) predicted that the growing demand for manufactured products in Puerto Rico, even amid high inflation, would result in an unprecedented expansion of this sector since the 1990s.

According to available data, the Diffusion Index of the IICM stood at 62.9 points during the first two quarters of 2023, indicating potential expansion of Puerto Rico’s manufacturing activity.

The IICM is a multi-component measurement tool in manufacturing used to “determine its state every natural month.”

Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and the United States are the leading countries in semiconductor production.

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