US-PR economic dialogue Part 3: A roadmap for economic development
By The Star Staff
Participants in last week’s White House dialogue on strategies for jumpstarting Puerto Rico’s economic development agreed to the following actions:
* The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will establish the Rural Partners Network in 15 island municipalities, identifying priority economic development projects and hiring four new federal staff in Puerto Rico to help those towns navigate and access federal funding. USDA will also increase direct outreach, Spanish translation, and local partnerships to build awareness of federal programs available to support Puerto Rico’s rural and agricultural community, including the deployment of a new Emergency Conservation Program for agricultural communities impacted by Hurricane Fiona.
* The U.S. Department of Defense and the island Department of Economic Development and Commerce (DDEC by its Spanish acronym) will each invest approximately $2 million to bring LIFT, an advanced manufacturing research & development facility, to Puerto Rico. LIFT will invest an additional $2 million in the public-private partnership to further develop the technological capacity of the island’s manufacturers and provide advanced manufacturing training opportunities.
* USDA will partner with the gateway communities to El Yunque National Forest to establish a shuttle system that enhances access to El Yunque, and build new economic opportunities through tourism.
* The Economic Development Administration will recognize the Southern Puerto Rico Economic Development District as the island’s first certified Economic Development District. This will create a new local-federal partnership to support entrepreneurs, mobilize new resources, and plan for economic growth in Puerto Rico’s south.
* The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will invest more than $7.5 million in efforts by the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, University of Puerto Rico, and others to ensure sustainable natural resources, support coastal and marine research and education, and improve safety in the marine and coastal environment.
* The island Treasury Department and the Economic Development Bank of Puerto Rico will work toward launching Puerto Rico’s State Small Business Credit Initiative programs, using over $100 million in federal capital funding from the American Rescue Plan to provide credit for small businesses and draw up to $1 billion in additional private financing to support the expansion of small businesses, entrepreneurs and good-paying jobs in Puerto Rico.
* The Minority Business Development Administration will provide technical assistance to increase access to capital and government contracting for businesses in Puerto Rico, and host an Investor Summit in Puerto Rico together with the federal Treasury Department, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), the island Treasury Department and DDEC.
* SBA, the Puerto Rico Office of the Commissioner of Financial Institutions, and Puerto Rico Credit Union State Regulator will promote access to capital by delivering a lender training series focused on increasing participation in SBA loan programs by Puerto Rican financial institutions, with a focus on community development corporations, community development financial institutions, and minority depository institutions.
* SBA and the Puerto Rico General Service Administration will support small businesses in Puerto Rico through entrepreneurial development training, counseling, and the export assistance programs, and work to ensure that federal agencies increase Puerto Rico-based procurement efforts, particularly for small disadvantaged businesses.