Este informe no está disponible en español.


Governor’s Cabinet Shuffle Surprises Manufacturing Sector

Most industry insiders will ‘wait and see’ how the changes go


June 20, 2002
Copyright © 2002 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

In a move that took Puerto Rico’s economic development and manufacturing sector by surprise, Gov. Sila Calderon last week substituted Puerto Rico Industrial Development Co. (Pridco) Executive Director William Riefkohl with Port of the Americas Co-Manager Hector Jimenez Juarbe.

"The governor’s decisions come about as a result of a number of resignations from several government officials," said Economic Development & Commerce Secretary Ramon Cantero Frau to CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. "This is a good opportunity to fine-tune the administration. Regarding Jimenez Juarbe’s and Riefkohl’s new appointments, I trust that the work they have done so far will transfer to their new duties."

In April 2001, Gov. Calderon selected Riefkohl, then Puerto Rico Manufacturers Association (PRMA) executive vice president, to be Pridco’s senior executive assistant director for promotions. He was later nominated to head the agency.

On July 15, new Pridco Executive Director Hector Jimenez Juarbe will undertake Riefkohl’s responsibilities at Pridco. Ironically, Riefkohl had succeeded Jimenez Juarbe as PRMA executive vice president. The latter served 28 years until his retirement in 1997. In 2001, Gov. Calderon convinced Jimenez Juarbe to come out of retirement and manage the government’s efforts to develop the Port of the Americas including the federal and local environmental-impact statements approval process.

"I will continue overlooking the Port of the Americas’ development and sharing the experiences I have gained so far," said Jimenez Juarbe. "It is a challenge, but there are many people involved who are committed to the project.

"Regarding Pridco, my previous experience at the PRMA helps me understand the manufacturing sector’s problems and to aid in their solution. This is a second chance to serve my country," said Jimenez Juarbe.

The new Pridco chief said he would focus on the high-technology clusters and on retaining local businesses by studying which industries have a chance to develop successfully. To encourage capital investment on the island, Jimenez Juarbe said he intends to create a list of viable projects, including information regarding environmental matters, markets, the amount of investment needed, and all the applicable government incentives.

"Criollo [local] small businesses must be developed–small companies that create an entrepreneurial culture and tradition. It is easier to establish 10 companies with 20 jobs each than to attract one big company with 200 jobs," said Jimenez Juarbe.

Jimenez Juarbe will also emphasize new promotional efforts, such as the brokers that have been suggested for the Port of the Americas. Additionally, a new board of manufacturing representatives will be established to keep Jimenez Juarbe apprised of new trends.

Riefkohl, meanwhile, will remain in government service, concentrating on the efforts to develop the Port of the America’s value-added manufacturing support complex, a critical component of the port’s success. CARIBBEAN BUSINESS spoke with Riefkohl after the governor’s announcements. He seemed to have come to terms with the governor’s decision and said he would concentrate on the challenge of building up the Port of the Americas’ value-added component.

"The value-added component of the Port of the Americas is perhaps Puerto Rico’s most important economic development project today," said Riefkohl. "The Convention Center is now on its way, and the Puerto Rico TechnoEconomic Corridor has been properly established for the promotion of clusters throughout the island.

"The Port of the Americas is a much more complex project, and its ramifications endow it with enormous importance for the island’s economic well-being. It is an entire process that will include the development of industrial parks and foreign trade zones, in addition to the identification of value-added industries that will create wealth and jobs," said Riefkohl.

Reactions to the new Juarbe and Riefkohl appointments

Reactions to the cabinet changes were widely disparate. CARIBBEAN BUSINESS contacted several industry leaders who claimed they had no previous knowledge of the changes or of the governor’s reasons for making them. Some business leaders disagreed with the changes but preferred to adopt a wait-and-see attitude about their impact on the island’s economy.

PRMA President Lucy Crespo lauded Riefkohl’s work at Pridco, saying, "[He] has done an excellent job, being very accessible to our issues and our membership. His support behind the law that encourages companies to buy products manufactured locally has already had a great impact for Puerto Rico. [Law 166 of Dec. 3, 2001 grants a 10% to 25% tax credit on the value of the purchases of products and services bought from local corporations, a market that in the government alone is estimated at $5.3 billion.]

"We were taken by surprise [by the announcement], but the Port of the Americas is a very important project for Puerto Rico and needs a lot of development. The government will soon be moving from a design-and-permit stage to an implementation phase that will require Riefkohl’s talents. We would like to continue identifying opportunities for our members’ participation," said Crespo.

PRMA’s Crespo said about Jimenez Juarbe that he "knows the manufacturing industry and supports it. He has always shown a deep understanding of our needs and will continue the excellent direction that Riefkohl gave that agency. He also has a deep understanding of Puerto Rico manufacturing laws, which is needed to keep local industries operating on the island."

Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce President Jose J. Villamil told CARIBBEAN BUSINESS he would wait to evaluate what impact the changes will make on the island’s economy. Villamil, who has known or has worked with many of those involved in the cabinet shuffle, said any PRCC comments would be made during this week’s convention at Fajardo’s Wyndham El Conquistador Resort & Country Club.

Association of Puerto Rican Products’ President Rolando Avila was surprised by the news upon his return to Puerto Rico from a trip to the U.S. mainland. "These changes could be a result of the governor looking for new alternatives to expand our economy from people with other ideas. Few people are qualified to do this; those that are may be being shuffled around to revitalize the country."

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
For further information please contact

Self-Determination Legislation | Puerto Rico Herald Home
Newsstand | Puerto Rico | U.S. Government | Archives
Search | Mailing List | Contact Us | Feedback