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Economic Development & Pridco Designates To Develop Joint Economic Plan

Deadline Feb. 14; focus on business development & interagency projects


February 3, 2005
Copyright © 2005 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Designated Economic Development & Commerce Department (EDCD) Secretary Jorge Silva and designated Puerto Rico Industrial Development Co. (Pridco) Executive Director Marie Robert are committed to working together in a plan to boost the local economy, to be ready in mid-February.

Gov. Aníbal Acevedo Vilá appointed Silva and Robert in early January after much speculation from the business community on who would be named–and stay put–as the island’s economic czars. The Calderón administration had two EDCD secretaries and four Pridco executive directors during its four-year term. This revolving-door situation is considered partly to blame for the small number of new companies that set up operations on the island between 2000 and 2004. Silva and Robert plan to work as a team to tackle the problems left unattended by the last administration.

Silva said Gov. Acevedo Vilá, in their first meeting, asked him his ideas for a long-term plan for the island’s economy. "My first thoughts turned to the multiplying effect of creating a solid, local business industry to diversify the economy and establish an enduring trade and industry environment, which would reinvest its capital on the island," said Silva. This would create more jobs, more business, and develop a business community committed to Puerto Rico.

"We need to create a multicompetent economy, so we won’t have to depend on just one industry or business sector. Puerto Rico has a lot to offer in many areas, not only in manufacturing and tourism, and local enterprises haven’t had a chance to develop to their maximum potential," Silva added.

Silva and Robert agree the EDCD umbrella can do much more if all its agencies join forces to accomplish different projects. In addition to Pridco, the EDCD oversees seven other agencies: the Commerce & Trade Co. (CTC, formerly the Commerce Development Administration and Promoexport), the Cooperative Development Administration (CDA), Puerto Rico Tourism Co., the Puerto Rico Land Administration, the Convention Center District Authority, the Cinematography Development Corp., and the Horse Racing Industry Administration. "We have an opportunity to explore these agencies’ huge potential if we work as a team," Silva said.

The designated agency heads already have discussed macro and micro strategies both agencies can develop together, along with ways their respective areas can become more efficient, Silva said. "For example, we could work on a new tourism proposal for Vieques and Culebra. Pridco could cede an empty building to the CDA for an artisans’ cooperative, whose members could receive financial and accounting training from the CTC’s technical staff," he noted. Silva aims to use the EDCD umbrella to its maximum potential by taking advantage of efficiencies, cutting costs, and minimizing duplication.

Pridco support crucial for interagency projects

Pridco’s role in a government plan to boost the local economy is pivotal to the success of the EDCD’s plans; however, it is a partnership that not always has worked in the past, largely due to a clash of egos. Pridco’s role is to promote Puerto Rico’s advantages to investors looking to establish or expand their businesses on the island. Designated Executive Director Robert is no stranger to Pridco, having been the agency’s New York office director since 2003.

"No one, not even Pridco, can promote Puerto Rico alone and attract as many new companies or subsidiaries," Robert said. She is quick to recognize the need for an interagency effort throughout government to provide each potential company with everything it needs in the shortest time possible. "Pridco can act as a facilitator, bringing agencies together in a task force for a special project. However, if the entire job continues to fall on Pridco’s shoulders, we won’t be able to reach our goals," Robert stated.

One of Robert’s ideas to attract and sell Puerto Rico to corporations is creating proposals tied to the exact needs of each company. Robert said it was precisely this type of proposal that proved successful in attracting Infotech Aerospace Service Inc., which has so far hired nearly 120 engineers and has committed to increasing that number to 400, to design & develop high-technology software for the aeronautical transportation industry.

Robert also proposes a plan to reorganize Pridco’s promotions division as was suggested by former Pridco Executive Director Héctor Jiménez Juarbe before he left the agency during the Calderón administration.

Pridco also has a memorandum of understanding with the Science & Technology Trust, an organization dedicated to research & development. Robert pointed out that this means Pridco’s Science & Technology Office must redefine its role. "The office could be reorganized and its promoters trained in specific technical areas, such as life sciences and information technology, eliminating divisions characterized by regions. I tried this in New York and it worked so I hope to implement it agencywide," Robert revealed.

Silva and Robert said they are taking a close look at the resources each of their agencies will require to bring their plans to fruition.

Meanwhile, if Silva’s appointment as EDCD secretary is approved by the Legislature, the only addition he has proposed to the department is a new deputy secretary. The candidate would be Jaime Morales, who worked closely in the Caguas municipal government’s very successful economic development efforts. Robert’s new deputy assistants, all of them lawyers, would be five from Puerto Rico and one colleague from Pridco’s New York office: Boris Jaskille, Carlos Jiménez, Rosana Moreno, Alfredo Pérez Zapata, Luis Colón, and Mari Sara Meléndez, respectively.

Regarding projects left running by the past administration, Silva is reading up on the larger projects, such as Ceiba’s redevelopment plan, the port of Ponce and its value-added component, San Juan’s ports reorganization, and Aguadilla’s development as an airline hub for the island’s western region. "I understand each project’s importance and intend to give them continuity," Silva said.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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