The eyes of medical technology community were fixed on Puerto Rico on Wednesday as Hurricane Maria battered the island and the dozens of med-tech factories that dot its countryside.
Scores of life sciences companies have built manufacturing plants in Puerto Rico over the years, drawn by advantageous tax arrangements and a strong local workforce. On Wednesday, many of those plants closed down as the destructive storm passed overhead.
Medtronic is among the many med-tech companies with major footprints in Minnesota that have plants on the Caribbean island, including Boston Scientific, Abbott Laboratories and the St. Jude Medical products that Abbott acquired earlier this year. 3M also has a sales, technical and marketing office there.
News accounts from the island on Wednesday told of widespread flooding and structural damage, but none of the companies could immediately say how the storm had affected their workers or factories.
J.P. Morgan Securities stock analyst Mike Weinstein said that in conversations with the management of major med-tech companies Wednesday, executives emphasized that they had built up inventories ahead of the recent storms and had backup power generators on site, among other preparations.
Fred Zimmerman, emeritus professor in manufacturing systems engineering at the University of St. Thomas, said it’s likely that the med-tech companies had taken preparations in advance of Wednesday’s storm.
“Most well-run companies nowadays have to prepare for severe disruptions,” Zimmerman said. “They won’t be unscathed, but I think they will be able to recover.”