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Resignation Of Pridco’s Jimenez Juarbe Appears Imminent

Not Many Candidates For The Job; Industry Insiders Suggest Pridco’s Watlington


May 22, 2003
Copyright © 2003 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Rumors about the impending resignation of Puerto Rico Industrial Development Co. (Pridco) Executive Director Hector Jimenez Juarbe can no longer be ignored, given his recent health problems.

Sources claim that Jimenez Juarbe has already submitted his resignation but is waiting for a replacement to be named before making it public.

CARIBBEAN BUSINESS spoke to Jimenez Juarbe, who denied that he had tendered his resignation. "I am looking at my workload and at which areas I can modify, because I tend to come in very early in the morning and not leave the office until late at night," said Jimenez Juarbe. "After I think about this and talk to my family, I will have a conversation with the governor and see what we can do. But for now, business at Pridco continues as usual."

Not that his workload has caused him to slow down; the executive can be found on the track field near his home every day at 6 a.m. before heading to Pridco. Jimenez Juarbe retired from the Puerto Rico Manufacturers Association (PRMA) in 1997, after 28 years as executive director. He came out of retirement in April 2001 when Gov. Sila Calderon asked him to head the Port of the Americas project.

At the time, it seemed the perfect solution. With his business connections, Jimenez Juarbe was able to move the project along to where it now stands. After switching the primary venue for the port from Guayanilla to Ponce, the project now awaits the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ approval of the Environmental Impact Statement.

Many in the manufacturing industry were surprised when the governor--in one of her many cabinet shuffles--replaced Jimenez Juarbe with then-Pridco Executive Director William Riefkohl in July 2002. Riefkohl was asked to take over the development of the port’s value-added component, but the PRMA quickly convinced him to return to his former position as executive director of that organization (he had been chosen after Jimenez Juarbe retired).

So who will head Pridco now--more than halfway into the governor’s four-year term and after two directors?

While some audacious folks suggest Riefkohl should return to Pridco, it isn’t likely that he will go back to work for the government. Riefkohl has been working with PRMA President Manuel Cidre to develop the association’s strategy for promoting Puerto Rico to corporations and driving local companies to export their products.

Industry sources say that Neil Watlington, director of Pridco’s Continental & Foreign Industries Office of Promotion, is the most likely candidate to replace Jimenez Juarbe. Based in New York, Watlington has been trying to attract major manufacturing companies to the island through presentations to financial institutions. The strategy is a departure for Pridco, which traditionally has approached corporations individually. While his work has branded him a maverick, he seems to be doing what Pridco has been preaching as the new way to market Puerto Rico outside the island.

Other candidates mentioned, probably because they work closely with Economic Development & Commerce (EDC) Secretary Milton Segarra, are Commerce Development Administrator Antonio Sosa and EDC Assistant to the Secretary Omar Contreras. Although both are intelligent young men who have important positions at the EDC, sources say the head of Pridco should be an experienced leader in the island’s economic development. Besides, the sources say, more changes within the EDC are hardly needed.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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