Recognizing that the construction sector has been going through a prolonged rough patch, Gov. Alejandro García-Padilla told members of the Association of General Contractors, Puerto Rico chapter Wednesday that his administration’s plans call for their inclusion in a number of projects in the pipeline.
However, he also urged them to join his administration’s efforts in creating jobs by hiring at least one worker per company.
“If we want to create wealth, if we want to support construction, if we want to solve the climate of uncertainty experienced by Puerto Rican families, first we need to put people to work. That’s the slogan of my government: jobs now,” he told a roomful of AGC members for the governor, who was nearly two hours late to the event.
The chief executive said his administration is considering amendments to Law 212 to transform urban centers and will continue to promote new Public-Private Partnerships, ensuring that they require international private companies that do business with the government, to hire local companies.
“Whether to build or to inspect, we want and need you to be part of these projects,” García-Padilla said. “We will follow the same protocol with government agencies in Puerto Rico. For the economy to recover, capital has to move here, it has to stay here. We need to link up the domestic economy to save Puerto Rico.”
The governor also said during his brief presentation that a draft of the much-anticipated Land Use Plan would be ready by August, to then begin the public hearings process to pave the way for its approval by January 2014. The Land Use Plan has been written and re-written a number of times since it was first presented in 2004.
New president sworn in
During Wednesday’s gathering, the AGC swore in its new board of directors, headed by President Santiago Domenech, who said his term will be defined by three pillars: education, leadership and commitment.
As head of the trade organization, Domenech said his goal is to work alongside the García-Padilla administration on planning, lawmaking and infrastructure issues to find solutions to Puerto Rico’s ongoing problems.
“On the issue of cooperation with the government, I should point out that there are initiatives to address, from the point of view of construction, projects that will help move our economy. From the moment we learned the outcome of the election and before he [García-Padilla] was sworn in, we had already begun to join forces with the new government,” Domenech said.
And while a sense of collaboration seems to prevail, Domenech also said the AGC is ready to defend the industry against legislative bills — some which have already been proposed and others that are in the pipeline — that could negatively affect the already battered construction sector.
Among the measures on the AGC’s radar are: Senate Bill 22, penned by Sen. Antonio Faz Alzamora, which seeks to amend the Puerto Rico Penal Code to eliminate the penalty imposed on individuals who disrupt a construction project; Senate Bill 234 to revitalize urban centers; and Senate Bill 264, which pushes the administration’s agenda to create 50,000 jobs in 18 months.
“I don’t believe there is an entity or individual that would go against what this measure aims for but, having read and studied the bill, the Construction Industry Council has a number of amendments aimed at clarifying how to measure job creation and retention,” he said, referring to the coalition of which the AGC is a member.