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The Orlando Sentinel

Globalization Keeps Clients, Business Ties

Maria Padilla

April 30, 2003
Copyright © 2003
The Orlando Sentinel. All rights reserved. 

A Puerto Rican-based university plans to establish a center in Central Florida this fall, in another example of how island institutions are following the migration to Florida.

The Ana G. Méndez Foundation, which operates three universities in Puerto Rico -- Universidad Metropolitana, Universidad del Turabo and Universidad del Este, with nearly 30,000 students -- may get its provisional license to operate in Florida next month. It plans to offer degree programs in business administration, health care, tourism, elementary education, human resources, criminal justice and the teaching of English as a second language, among other subjects.

Puerto Ricans from the island will recognize the institution. Many may have studied at one of the foundation's universities before moving here.

The Méndez Foundation appears to have an uncanny sense of timing. The university would open in the Orlando area at a time when the state Legislature, reeling from a tight budget year, is looking to reduce funding to the state university system.

The state universities, in turn, have said they would either increase tuition or slash enrollment -- perhaps both -- in response to any budget cuts. If either of these scenarios comes to pass, it would open the door wider for the foundation.

In such an environment, it's safe to say the foundation likely would get a warm welcome.

Given the rapid growth in the Puerto Rican population of Central Florida -- the population stood at 162,000 in 2001 and is estimated at more than 200,000 today, based on double-digit annual growth -- the foundation is not the first to follow the Puerto Rican migration, and probably won't be the last.

The Office of the Government of Puerto Rico opened a regional office here in the mid-1990s. Banco Popular, the island's largest bank, has about 10 branches here. Insurance firm Cooperativa de Seguros Múltiples also is doing business in Central Florida, and soon will expand to Tampa. The island's largest newspaper, El Nuevo Día, announced it will launch a Central Florida edition this year. The church Fuente de Agua Viva, originally from the island and now with a large congregation off John Young Parkway, is expanding into Broward County.

In the western and southwestern United States, some Mexican institutions also are following the migration of their citizens to this country, in what is fast becoming a fascinating migration development.

In the last century, it used to be that when people emigrated they broke ties with the homeland, often because they had little choice. Communication and travel were vastly different then. Globalization of the marketplace has added a new twist. It means companies can follow their clients wherever they go.

Existing companies that want to retain and increase their Hispanic clientele may have to work harder at it. The new rivals may know a thing or two more about the target customers. Plus, many Hispanics may prefer to do business with a company that looks, sounds and feels familiar.

But the big picture indicates that what lies ahead is a whole new vista of how Hispanic and immigrant communities may evolve.

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