PRIVATE INVESTMENT ORGANIZATION DRAWS US BUSINESS TO COSTA RICA

PRIVATE INVESTMENT ORGANIZATION DRAWS US BUSINESS TO COSTA RICA

A private investment agency inspired by Ireland's example has helped draw $7.6 million in new U.S. investment to Costa Rica despite the unceasing political tension in neighboring countries.

The Costa Rican Investment Promotion Program, or Cinde, said commitment

from five companies this year means 1,200 people will be put to work making

surgical products, undergarments, baseballs and residential alarms.Cinde is organized along the lines of Ireland's Industrial Development Authority. One investment specialist is on loan from the Irish authority's headquarters in Dublin.

Gail Dresner, Cinde's marketing executive, said the Costa Rican group is designed to show overseas companies that Costa Rica provides the right business climate for their foreign operations. In the last two years, we attracted 43 firms with an investment of $52 million.

Some 10,000 private sector jobs have been created by the program since it was established in 1983, she said.

The agency, a private sector organization funded by a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development, drew New York entrepreneur Jeff Rose to the Central American nation six months ago.

Mr. Rose set up an $850,000 facility just outside San Jose. Today he employs 200 workers to produce a quality line of apparel sold to clothing lines such as Eddie Bauer and Esprit.

We set up here for reliability in supply, quality in workmanship, and stability in the system, Mr. Rose said.

My business is entrepreneurial and has got to be in a place that is reliable rather than a source of cheap labor, he added. Really, the country and the factory have to sell; Costa Rica has a good name, so the label 'Made in Costa Rica' does not detract from the product.

Mr. Rose plans to expand his facility, Industrial Textiles SA, which produces both from raw materials and partially worked goods. Mr. Rose supplies six U.S. customers.

The foreign capital Mr. Rose helps bring in is vitally needed in Costa Rica, whose foreign debt of $3.5 billion is one of the highest per-capita in the world.

Ms. Dresner said Cinde helps a prospective client tailor a country visit to Costa Rica. When the investor arrives, a few days of intensive business briefings are arranged. Cinde also emphasizes follow-up service to clients.

Over 100 major U.S. companies have invested $200 million in Costa Rica.