Sewing for Millionaires
A two-hour drive from the capital of San José, Costa Rica, sits the small community of Turrialba where mostly young workers sit and sew baseballs destined for Major League Baseball teams. Rawlings Sporting Goods Company moved its baseball manufacturing operations from Haiti in 1986 when the political landscape of the country began to change. Rawlings selected the town of Turrialba due to the incentives offered to the company by the Costa Rican government. Rawlings was awarded a free-trade zone in which the company would be allowed to operate duty-free in the country. Rawlings pays no import tariffs on the goods it imports to manufacture its baseballs, and the finished product can be shipped duty-free into the United States under the Caribbean Basin Initiative. The Turrialba region was hard hit economically in the 1980s when a major highway from the capital bypassed the town. Because travelers no longer stopped in Turrialba, the Costa Rican government wanted to develop the local area through foreign investment. Rawlings found the potential workforce better educated, and more disciplined than its workers in Haiti. The country was also well known for being very politically stable. With few employment opportunities in the area, Rawlings had no difficulty in securing dedicated and motivated employees. Although Costa Rica is the wealthiest country in Central America, per capita income is still only about $4,200 a year. Costa Rica has a national unemployment rate of 6.7 percent. However, the rate can vary from region to region. With the completion of the new highway and declining employment opportunities in the coffee and sugarcane industries, many local residents of Turrialba were eager to find stable employment. Most Rawlings employees in Costa Rica are engaged in sewing operations. In the plant, 300 employees sit in rows of high back chairs and sew baseballs. Many employees break the boredom of the work by listening to music on their...
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