ooperVision, one of the world’s leading contact lens manufacturers, has launched a multi-year investment plan to expand its footprint in Puerto Rico, cementing its decades-long presence within the island’s thriving life sciences hub.
“Our $500 million investment signals a commitment to customers, to our 2,000 local employees who are part of the great CooperVision family, and especially to the people of Puerto Rico, where we have operated and prospered since 1984,” CooperVision Chief Operations Officer Rolando Torres said during a June 2023 press conference. “The planned investments represent a significant expansion of our global manufacturing footprint and continued positive impact on the island’s economy,”
Three projects included in the plan are expected to scale the company’s award-winning Juana Díaz production facility. The 540,000-sq.-ft. site, which produces popular silicone hydrogel contact lens brands including MyDay® and Biofinity®, earned a LEED Silver certification for its environmentally conscious design and operation in 2020.
With a sizeable portion of the investment, CooperVision will add more than 200,000 sq. ft. to the location. During the first project, a 22,000-sq.-ft. warehouse will be renovated for production, installing new, high-volume, automated contact lens manufacturing cells. The second project will increase the current manufacturing floor by 120,000 sq. ft. to accommodate additional new manufacturing cells. The third project will expand the main building by 100,000 sq. ft. for new packaging lines and warehousing.
In addition to expanding the Juana Díaz facility, CooperVision revealed that it will establish a new global manufacturing hub 10 miles southeast of its existing operations on the island. Approximately $100 million of the total investment is being utilized to acquire and renovate a 115,000-sq.-ft. facility in Ponce previously operated by Roche Diagnostics. With this new location, CooperVision will increase the manufacturing capacity for its globally shipped soft contact lenses, including innovative designs such as MiSight® 1 day, the first and only soft contact lens approved by the U.S. FDA and China NMPA to slow the progression of childhood myopia.
“We continue to take strategic actions to maintain our global success and improve our competitiveness. The growth in local production volumes, capital investment and job creation have been constant and forceful drivers for economic development in Puerto Rico,” said Torres. “Puerto Rico’s selection for the CooperVision expansion followed considerable study and analysis of multiple options, highlighting the extraordinary talent who lives here.”
Once these projects are completed, 700 new jobs will be created, 400 of which will be located at the new facility in Ponce.
“Our country is a mine of talents, and I am completely convinced that this island has the capabilities to compete and dominate the global manufacturing of medical devices and pharmaceutical products worldwide,” Torres told News is my Business, a Puerto Rican economic and financial digital newspaper, in June. “We must use our capabilities as a spearhead to insert ourselves and meet the needs of parent companies and offer effective solutions using our local talent beyond the traditional areas of manufacturing.”
‘The Most Important Life Science Hub in the Americas’
CooperVision is one of the companies joining Puerto Rico’s new government-backed life sciences-logistics initiative, the Puerto Rico Air Cargo Community. Launched in April, the coalition, supported by the Puerto Rico Department of Economic Development and Commerce (DEDC), aims to transform the island into “the most important life science hub in the Americas.”
To achieve this goal, the initiative will initially embark on three objectives:
Twelve of the top 20 highest-grossing pharmaceutical companies worldwide — including Johnson & Johnson, Amgen and AbbVie, as well as medical device corporations Medtronic, CooperVision and Boston Scientific — run operations in Puerto Rico.
“Puerto Rico’s selection for the CooperVision expansion followed considerable study and analysis of multiple options, highlighting the extraordinary talent who lives here.”
— Rolando Torres, Chief Operations Officer, CooperVision
In 2022, the territory’s top two exports — pharmaceuticals and medicine manufacturing and medical equipment and supplies manufacturing — jointly generated approximately $17.6 billion, earning Puerto Rico its ranking as the No.1 bioscience manufacturing hub in the U.S. by export volume.
“We have a well-trained, highly adaptable, bilingual workforce and decades of experience in manufacturing life sciences,” said DEDC Secretary Manuel Cidre in April. “We have the full backing of Customs, and, through cooperation and a focus on sustainable, state-of-the-art, standardized air logistics, we will improve all parts of the shipment journey.”
A community board consisting of members, the DEDC, Invest Puerto Rico, the Industry University Research Center (INDUNIV), Aerostar Airport Holdings and the Port Authority of Puerto Rico is spearheading this initiative. Several companies joining the group have begun the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Center of Excellence for Independent Validators (CEIV) certification process.
“We truly believe we’re heading in the right direction,” said David Olan, manager of inter-regional transport for Johnson & Johnson’s Puerto Rico operations. “The new Air Cargo Community will give us the forum to define our opportunities to drive consistent and solid supply chain logistics on the island. We will be able to create a more reliable and quality-oriented ecosystem that is aligned with our life science and health care sector, and, at the same time, it will help us to meet and/or exceed our customers’ demands.”